Temple members call for urgent enquiry into missing £200,000

Concern is mounting among some members of the Croydon gurdwara, the sikh temple on St James’s Road, with around £200,000 apparently unaccounted for after having been transferred from the charity’s bank account, while an investigation by the Charity Commission has stalled.

Worshippers at the Croydon gurdwara: there is growing concerns about how the charity's finances have been managed

Worshippers at the Croydon gurdwara: there is growing concerns about how the charity’s finances have been managed

It had been thought that the money was being used to purchase a nearby house.

But the house sale was never approved by a general meeting of the temple-goers, as required under the charity’s own rules. Mystery now surrounds the whereabouts of the cash that had been earmarked by the temple’s management board for the house deal.

In the past fortnight, two of the temple charity’s officers and trustees have resigned, following a bad-tempered general meeting last month which saw the police called out to keep the peace. First to go was the governing body’s chairman, Jeet Bains, who is a councillor for Coulsdon West, following accusations of abusive and racist behaviour. Bains has denied any misconduct. Now, Amar Maker, the senior trustee, has also stood down from the management board.

At a tense meeting held last week, numerous gurdwara members said that they had lost confidence in the way the temple was being run and they demanded the removal of the existing committee and trustees. A mediator, Avninder Singh Kahlon, was appointed at the meeting and will be working with the trustees to resolve concerns about the charity funds.

Maker confirmed to last week’s meeting that £200,000 has been transferred from the charity’s bank account, but she said she does not have access to the funds nor know which bank is holding this money. A month ago, Maker, an award-winning businesswoman who runs a property management firm based in South Croydon, told a general meeting at the temple that she was going ahead with the purchase of the £400,000-plus house at Tavistock Road and was on the verge of exchanging contracts.

“She still maintains she has exercised care and skill in protecting the charity’s property and reputation,” one of the temple members who attended the latest meeting told Inside Croydon.

Two of the temple management board’s officers were unavailable to attend the latest meeting, at least one of them believed to have moved to India indefinitely.

Efforts by the Charity Commission to investigate the Croydon gurdwara’s finances as a matter of urgency have so far been frustrated. “There is no one at the charity who is prepared to respond to the Commission’s enquiries,” our source said.

A group of concerned members were due to meet Maker and two other trustees this week to find a way forward, and to try to find the money. An immediate and independent audit seems likely, and police involvement has not been ruled out.

“Maker was Bains’s right-hand woman and she works closely with the vice-president, Ragnath Kooner,” our source said. “We are giving her a final chance to come clean with the mediation meeting. It may be that they have got away with autocracy for so many years, they don’t understand how serious their activities are.

“She won a Lloyds Bank business award but now pretends that she does not understand the duties and obligations of a trustee. She has been a trustee since 2004.

“If answers are not forthcoming, then we really have little option but to report this everywhere.”

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