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US: Controversial swami held for theft, released on bail

October 31, 2008 19:57 IST

Gwinnett County, Georgia police arrested Dr Commander Selvam, whose real name is Annamalai Annamalai. He is faced with felony charges of theft by taking and practicing medicine without a license.

Selvam was out on bail after a few hours for $125,000. The police took away the computers from his home for further investigation.

Authorities were on the hunt for the controversial swami, accused of stealing from his desperate followers, claming powers through black magic, for two days before his arrest October 30.

Police alerted Hartsfield Jackson International Airport officials just in case he tried to flee the country. Annamalai may also face some questions from the IRS.

A story this June in Fox 5 in Atlanta about Selvam, founder of the Hindu Temple of Georgia in Norcross, alerted the police about his activities.

The FOX 5 investigation revealed that he was not a traditional Hindu priest. He claimed he could help cure virtually any personal problem. He drove expensive cars and lived in a million-dollar house in the Sugarloaf Country Club. His smiling image showed up throughout his Norcross temple.

Selvam refused to speak to Fox 5 then. But in a long chat with rediff India Abroad, he denied all the allegations then and said these people were trying to mess up with his life.

The 'swami' claimed to follow Atharva Veda and cure many ailments through tantric karmas and black magic. He charges large amounts too.

One allegation was that he allowed alcohol and meat in the temple premises. Two priests at the temple told on TV camera that they were asked to clean them after parties and considered that demeaning. They filed a police complaint against him for improper behavior and cheating.

Both left the country also. Selvam, 37, too filed a case for stealing against them.

Another accuser is Dr H V Shivadas Jaya, currently director of operations for Gandhi Foundation USA, who was the CEO and temple manager during 2006 to 2007. "By the spring of 2007 I began to have many suspicions about this 'Dr Commander Selvam' when he began to attempt to engage me in many illegal and unethical activities. First suspicion was when I discovered he was married," Shivadas Jaya told rediff India abroad then.

He also said he had received thousands of complaints from clients who had sought services to counter 'black magic.' Selvam promised to remove the curse for payments of up to $10,000 per client.

Another accuser is Valmiki Raghunathan, who owns an IT company. He said he met Selvam to hire the auditorium for a spiritual talk by Prema Pandurang. But he alleged that Selvam made the five-day programme nightmarish by cutting electricity and sound.

So he demanded partial refund of the money. For this he called him several times.

This led to cases and counter cases. Then Raghunathan approached Fox 5, but they wanted more people to speak against Selvam. Finally, the two priests and others came forward and Fox carried the news.

He said Selvam is still on H1-B visa and his wife Parvathi is on H1-4.

Before starting the temple in Georgia, Selvam told rediff India Abroad that he had donated $5 million for the project.

He was then in California. But Fox's investigation said the temple and his property are all heavily mortgaged.

In his chat to rediff India Abroad, Selvam denied the allegations and pointed out many allegations against the accusers.

He said Raghunathan had a history of threat and harassment for two years. He noted that meat and alcohol were allowed only in the auditorium, which is adjacent to the temple. "Moreover meat is allowed in some temples," he said.

"Who said swamis should not marry? Many swamis in India marry. Hinduism is an ocean and it is practiced in many ways," he said.

About the use of the title 'commander', he said he was the youngest commander of the 4th area command for Chennai city. When asked about the date, he said it was during 1994-95.

As a healer and Siddha practitioner, he is being called doctor, he clarified.

When he spoke to rediff India Abroad in 2005, he said he decided to construct the temple after a revelation. It even pointed the location. "Many people asked me why I could not build the temple in California or in major centres like New York or New Jersey. I told them about the darshan," he said.

He claimed to be a native of Palghat in Kerala. But it seems he is a native of Karaikudy in Tamil Nadu.

He said then that he began to speculate on real estate and that made him all the money. He justifies the money making ventures of a sanyasin saying, "Without my life being successful, how can I make others successful?"