Federal agents are “asking questions” about 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.
While the term “investigation” was not used per se, sources at the FBI and the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed to FITS that their offices have been asked to examine reports of alleged financial irregularities at the temple involving Haley’s father, “Doc” Randhawa.
Our source at SLED said that the agency has referred all inquiries to the FBI – which is conducting the preliminary inquiry.
In addition to these law enforcement sources, several congregation members who spoke with FITS on condition of anonymity confirmed that they have been contacted by authorities with specific questions about the temple’s finances, but they declined to elaborate on the specific questions they were asked.
What are the feds looking for?
Well, for starters we’re told that they are examining financial discrepancies that were first exposed in this exclusive report published on FITS last November. Specifically, agents are trying to determine whether Haley’s father – a temple leader – is guilty of mere shoddy financial management or something more sinister.
None of our sources would say whether Nikki Haley – a former member of the temple’s board and its rumored accountant – was a focus of the investigation.
“Any inquiry involving a sitting governor would have to be authorized by the Department of Justice,” one of our agency sources said, declining to elaborate further.
A DOJ spokesperson did not immediately respond to our request for comment regarding this story.
The temple’s poor fiscal management is nothing new. According to Richland County court filings the Sikh Religious Society has been sued four times since March 2010 – including actions to foreclose and debts totaling $116,000. In a court filing dated October 15, 2010, the temple was given a twenty-day notice of an impending lawsuit regarding a lien placed on its property by Hardaway Concrete Company – one of several contractors that is suing the temple for non-payment of invoices.
In addition to failing to pay its debts, there are also questions about how “Doc” Randhawa has managed the temple’s books.
Until last October, shortly before FITS began making inquiries regarding the temple, contributions earmarked for the project were sent directly to Ajit Randhawa’s residence, however in recent months the congregation has been asked to “make a deposit direct to BB&T” and “call your friends and relatives to donate.”
Speaking of donations, one of the sources we spoke with told us that Randhawa has a history of providing donors with tax receipts that are in excess of cash contributions made to the organization – which if true would be highly illegal.
Also – and this is the most damaging allegation – several congregation members claim that Randhawa may have illegally funneled money intended for the temple into his daughter’s gubernatorial campaign.
We’ve uncovered no proof of that charge (yet), but Randhawa is clearly not leveling with his congregation about the temple’s outstanding debts – nor is he being honest with them about the size of the loan taken out on the new construction project.
Documents obtained by FITS show that in May of 2009, the temple took out a $750,000 loan with BB&T – although Randhawa has told the congregation on multiple occasions (most recently in the October 15 newsletter) that the loan was for $700,000.
When one congregation member asked about this discrepancy, Randhawa reportedly told them that he would have to “check with Nikki,” who in addition to her rumored work as the society’s accountant was also a member of its board of trustees at one time.
Haley was raised as a Sikh, but joined a Methodist church after marrying her husband, Michael Haley.
(Here are some pictures of Haley attending a wedding at the temple last year).
Numerous congregation members are unhappy with the Randhawa’s – and Nikki Haley. In fact, Haley’s alleged accounting work has reportedly been so shoddy that when the temple sought the loan, several members of the congregation requested that an outside bookkeeper be brought in to manage its proceeds.
If true, this obviously wouldn’t be the first time that Haley has fumbled work for her family.
In September, records published by the Associated Press revealed that Haley’s family business has been penalized three times over the last six years for failing to pay its corporate income taxes on time (and failing to turn over taxes withheld from employees’ paychecks). The company – owned by her parents – has also been late paying property taxes. Meanwhile, Haley and her husband have also repeatedly failed to pay their income taxes on time – and were late paying their property taxes on at least one occasion.