Devotees' millions diverted to Nithyananda account

Enquiries by Deccan Herald revealed that much of the money was deposited in that account earlier this year and may constitute profits that the Nithyananda Imports and Exports (NIE) raked in from businesses in the United States, Europe, Malaysia, Singapore and Guadalupe in South America. This has led the Income Tax authorities to begin an investigation for which sleuths are now collecting evidence.

It has been verified that the three partners in the firm, registered in Bidadi in September 2007, are Nithyeshwara, alias Gopinath, who is Nithyananda's younger brother, Atmaprabhananda and the godman's elder brother Senthil Kumar who later withdrew.

According to information accessed by Deccan Herald, between June and December 2009, when the Inner Awakening (IA) and Life Bliss Technology (LBT) programmes were conducted at Bidadi, respectively, the total money raised from the devotees was slightly over $4,250,000 or Rs 19.55 crore.

Liquid cash

This amount was mostly raised by way of liquid cash or cash cheques either drawn in the name of Dhanya Peeta Charitable Trust or the godman himself. CID sources suspect that the money was then diverted to Nithyananda's account.

Investigation on

Investigations are also underway to determine whether money was diverted to Nithyananda's account from the NIE's profits transferred back to India in dollar terms. Documents available with Deccan Herald suggest that the payment against invoices raised by NIE between November 2007 and December 2009 was $709,982 or Rs 3.27 crore. Wire transfer details indicate that money in large amounts, sometimes as much as $99,999, was moved to some Indian banks, including the Corporation Bank in Bidadi.

Investment in stocks

The other sources from which money was raised included returns from an investment of about $1.5 million in the US stock market that fetched returns of about 7 per cent. Sources explained that nine US-based investors of Indian origin created a hedge fund in 2008 that was invested in the stock market.

Efforts are on to find out whether these stock market returns also filled Nithyananda's coffers. Similar hedge funds operated in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Tax benefits

Large amounts of money were generated by 12 so-called non-profit foundations in the US with substantial tax benefits. The balance sheet of one of these, Nithyananda Foundation, which was established in 2004, shows that its total assets in the 2007 financial year was over $5.75 million and the "net gain" was $2.30 million.

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