A federal investigation into the finances of the Sikh Religious Society of South Carolina – the temple where S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s parents, Dr. Ajit S. “Doc” Randhawa and Raj Randhawa worship – has expanded to include the governor’s personal and campaign finances, multiple sources familiar with the ongoing probe tell FITS.
Specifically, agents are said to be investigating whether Haley and her husband, Michael, received improper payments from the temple – allegations which have revived lingering questions about discrepancies between the couple’s meager pre-gubernatorial income and the lavish lifestyle they enjoyed.
Haley is a former Sikh Religious Society board member as well as the former accountant for the temple. Randhawa, her father, is the current president of the congregation.
In addition to a 2010 scam in which Randhawa allegedly doled out tax receipts to donors in excess of the amounts they actually contributed to the temple, agents are also said to be investigating allegations of possible financial “co-mingling” between the temple and Haley’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
Multiple law enforcement, judicial and temple sources have confirmed to FITS that a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office based in North Carolina has asked the temple to produce reams of financial data. Nikki and Michael Haley’s personal financial records may have also been sought in relation to the probe.
Why did such a request originate in North Carolina? Because the Justice Department apparently doesn’t like to use local assets to investigate high-ranking public officials (operating under the belief that such inquiries would be easily compromised).
Discrepancies in the temple’s finances were first exposed in this exclusive report published by FITS in November 2010. At the time, these problems were presumed to be merely another example of Haley’s shoddy accounting work – not some elaborate conspiracy deserving of a federal probe.
Five months later, however, we reported that federal agents were indeed “asking questions” about the temple’s finances based on information provided to them by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), one of Haley’s cabinet agencies.
This week, FITS learned that former SLED chief Reggie Lloyd – who announced his resignation from the Haley administration last March – forwarded specific temple-related allegations to the FBI in early 2011.
Reached for comment this week, Lloyd declined to confirm or deny those reports – although sources inside the governor’s office confirmed that Haley remains “livid” with her former top cop over his decision to pass along the info.
Why is Haley so sensitive about the possibility of a federal investigation into her finances?
Well, last March it was revealed that Haley’s job application for a fundraising position at Lexington Medical Center included a 2007 income estimate which vastly exceeded the amount of money that Haley reported to the IRS that year. Specifically, Haley’s application stated that she made $125,000 from her family clothing business in 2007 (a figure that would explain her $300,000 home, Cadillac SUV, fancy jewelry, etc.).
On her federal tax returns, however, Haley reported making only $22,000 from her “family business” that year.
Haley claims she never provided the hospital with that figure, although those denials have been thoroughly debunked.
Haley grew up a Sikh, but claims to have converted to Christianity in 1996 when she married her husband. The Haleys were wed in both Sikh and Methodist ceremonies, however.
(Here are some pictures of Haley attending a wedding at the temple in 2010).
Obviously the Sikh Temple Scandal isn’t the only potential Damocles Sword dangling over Haley’s administration.
GOP fundraiser John Rainey recently filed a lawsuit against Haley outlining a host of serious ethics violations, while Attorney General Alan Wilson is currently probing the “Savannah River Sellout” (a controversial deal in which Haley betrayed South Carolina’s economic and environmental interests – ostensibly for financial and political favors). Haley is also facing a possible congressional probe into her Obamacare exchange panel shenanigans, while a mushrooming medical records scandal at the S.C. Department of Commerce is the latest in a long line of cabinet fiascos.
Will one of these investigations finally result in something sticking to “Teflon Trikki?” That remains to be seen, although the steady stream of scandals has contributed to Haley’s plummeting approval rating.