Prem Rawat's Boeing 707: The DECA Project
The DECA project, begun in 1979 was set up to provide Prem Rawat with a customized Boeing 707 for his personal use. As an adjunct to the ashram system, DECA was reliant on unpaid labour and donated funds; the business model that developed within DECA served as the basis for subsequent projects designed to benefit Prem Rawat.
In 1979 the acquisition and customization of a Boeing 707 for Prem Rawat's exclusive use became a dominant drive within the then Divine Light Mission. A 1961 vintage aircraft was acquired for US$1 million from an American Football Team. A business operation called the DECA Project and based in Florida was set up and ashram residents were drafted in to all aspects of work on the plane itself as well as project management and, most significantly - fund raising.
The headquarters of DLM was moved to Miami and large numbers of the most skilled and dedicated ashram premies were moved to Miami and run-down hotels were rented to accommodate them. This had a significant effect on communities throughout the USA and to a certain extent other countries as many of the most committed devotees were taken to Miami to do unskilled labour. While it was rarely discussed, premie communities required a minimum number of members to keep the nightly satsang meetings interesting and a core of premies, usually in the ashram, to provide a model of dedication and devotion for the majority of premies who lived in nuclear families. Taking such a large number of these ashram premies to one community along with the "inspiration fatigue" brought on by 3 years of living chaotically through constantly attending festivals and responding to Rawat's raising of the devotional bar through his public dancing and demands of "surrender" contrbuted to a lessening of fervour and participation.
Like other expansive projects undertaken by Rawat's followers, DECA had no beneficial impact on the Rawat movement or its participants, however DECA did provide a model for income generation which was free of the costs and other considerations of the ashram system. Although dependant on the ashrams for its existence, DECA, or at least the funding expertise that it generated, can be seen as the development which allowed Rawat to dissolve the costly ashram system in 1982 and 1983, and to still maintain an income flow to his organizations.
Within the DECA facility a range of activities took place that were focussed on Prem Rawat's interests - servicing of his Rolls Royces was undertaken there. The financial structure seems to have lacked commonly expected controls and there have been accusations of inadequate and illegal work practices.
As reported on February March 1982 in the Washington Post, a former premie Maggie Shivers was successfully deprogrammed and when 28 and a student at Yale university gave testimony before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Delegates in Maryland considering a bill, introduced by Del. Ida G. Ruben (Democrat-Montgomery) which would allow a court to appoint a guardian for 45 days when families could produce evidence that a family member was under some kind of "mind control". She had joined the Divine Light Mission when she was 19 and rose through the ranks to become an administrator at the Divine Light Mission International Headquarters in Denver. During her deprogramming she was told "You know Maharaji has a half dozen expensive cars around the country", and she said, "Hell with you, I'm his accountant and he's got 32 of them, if you really want to know!" Nevertheless her deprogramming was successful and she gave evidence about Rawat's gold plated fittings in his Boeing 707 and his teaching that "premies would shatter into a million pieces if they left".
Work on the Boeing 707 was completed in 1980 but inadequate research had been done and its emissions exceeded legal limits so the plane was soon sold to the more famous and much, much richer Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (he had begun his career working as the accounts clerk for a major Indian religious leader, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya (spiritual leader) of Jyotir math one of the 4 major monasteries in the country) who had it flown to Malaysia where it rapidly fell into disuse because of it's environmental problems and general bungling and devotee infighting according to some gossip I once read on the internet. The plane was used by Rawat for a US tour and a trip to Australia and New Zealand and a holiday in Tahiti.
The DECA business sought development as a corporate jet customization operation but proved unviable when run by premies for the ebnefit of Prem Rawat and was soon sold, being renamed Aircraft Modular Products(AMP). Some of Prem Rawat's followers, including Roger Koch who was it's main asset, gained employment with AMP but the company had no other links with Rawat or his organizations. AMP prospered and was sold in 1998 by it's then owner, Roger Koch, for over US$100 million. Roger Koch prospered and around 2010 made a donation of US$5 million to Rawat as part of his charitable activities. Within 2 years he had become disillusioned with Rawat and his "Knowledge" despite becoming part of the Major Donors' group, a "golf buddy" of that old coconut Charanand and meeting Rawat's children. He told his story on Ex Premie Forum and his intellectual and emotional journey has been collected here.
It is unclear what happened to the receipts from the sale of the Boeing 707 and the DECA business though as Divine Light Mission's mission was enrich Prem Rawat in any way possible then we can guess where they ended up. Numerous business operations started by Prem Rawat's followers seem to have become absorbed into a quasi corporate structure ostensibly to the benefit of Divine Light Mission, only to be 'demerged' to the sole benefit of subsequent owners.
This was written by Cynthia Gracie, who worked as Prem Rawat's secretary at DECA, and whose duties included cleaning his personal toilet:
"I spent a great deal of time with Prem Rawat personally in 1979 through 1980. This was during a period of time when Prem Rawat was known as "Guru Maharaj Ji" and I lived in an ashram in Miami Beach, Florida.
The project I worked on was a shell corporation called "DECA" and it had no real employees or safety guidelines. There was no payroll except for the few staff members who happened to be married. Because of Prem Rawat's greed and desire to have a jet aircraft of his own, he created this bizarre project and hundreds of his followers were called from all over the world to work for free. Many got very ill from chemical exposure and from sheer exhaustion.
Some followers were exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals without any protection. Some spent ten+ years afterwards without any acknowledgement or financial assistance from Prem Rawat for their health care. So many abuses took place during that project and within the "premie" (hindi for "lover of truth") communities there was great pressure for devotees to donate large sums of money during that time. Some people mortgaged their homes, some took out loans, and the rest of us worked in Florida for no pay. Millions and millions of dollars when into that project and Prem Rawat never even liked the B707 that was completely reconfigured inside and out by his devotees. He sold it! Now he has Gulfstream V (information accurate at time of writing 2012), the best private jet available on the market. A $40 million+ jet that is provided for his exclusive use because he always wanted to be a pilot and now is one."
Fortunately the premie who did the gold plating was still alive and apparently well in 2012 despite the toxic poisons involved.
- Prem Rawat aka Maharaji Information Resource
- Prem Rawat aka Maharaji Information Resource
- Maharaji's Krishna Crown transport box