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Saturday, April 23, 2011

US judge allows fraud charges against Nithyananda entity

Chandan Nandy, Bangalore, April 22, DHNS :

In a major blow to Nithyananda and his so-called spiritual activities in the United States, an American court has allowed prosecution against one of his non-profit organisations and two of its directors for fraud under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act.

Besides, San Bernadino Superior Court judge David A Williams permitted charges to be framed against Nithyananda Foundation for unfair business practices.
It also allowed the plaintiffs -- some non-resident Indians who were devotees of Nithyananda -- to claim not just punitive damages which could be in millions but also their attorneys’ fees from all the defendants.

The US judge’s directive of April 21 came after he heard the arguments of the lawyers of both the plaintiffs and the respondents.
It follows the NRIs’ case filed in the San Bernadino Superior Court in California where they invoked RICO which is normally employed to proceed against the mafia.

The two directors of Oklahoma-based Nithyananda Foundation against whom the criminal case was filed are Siva Vallabhaneni, alias Sachitananda and D Jamunarani, alias Ma Sadananda, who is in India.

Deccan Herald had earlier reported that under RICO, a person who is a member of an enterprise that has committed any two of 35 crimes — 27 federal crimes and eight state crimes — within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering.

When the matter goes for trial, the plaintiffs, who had donated very large sums of money to Nithyananda and his several organisations, including the Nithyananda Foundation, could claim their money and also press for punitive damages.

During the course of the hearing on April 21, the NRIs’ attorneys submitted before Judge Williams that Nithyananda faced a criminal case in Karnataka.

When the lawyers for Nithyananda Foundation tried to defend Nithyananda by claiming that he was a private individual and not linked to the organisation, Judge Williams, according to sources present in the court, said: “This matter is in the public interest. I
know and have read the details. You do not need to explain.”

The matter will come up for further hearing on Thursday when the lawyers for the two sides will make submissions on some other issues raised in the NRIs’ petition.

Sources: Deccan Herald News