Guru and devotees jet in for a Queensland love-in

by: Josh Robertson
Indian spiritual leader Maharaji Prem Rawat

PEACE MISSION: Indian spiritual leader Prem Rawat has been buying property in southeast Queensland.
Source: The Courier-Mail

A JET-setting Indian guru has parked some of his personal fortune in Queensland alongside the multimillion-dollar revenues and assets generated by the local arm of his global peace enterprise.

Prem Rawat flew his leased private jet in for a five-day love-in this week at Peak Crossing, 20km south of Ipswich, with 4000 devotees from 60 countries each paying up to $3220 to attend one of the state's biggest conferences.

The "extraordinary gathering" is taking place on properties worth millions of dollars and owned by companies controlled by local delegates of the "maharaji" but registered in the tax haven of the Channel Islands.

While the value of the spiritual leader's Malibu mansion in the US has plunged from a one-time high of $US25 million ($23.9 million) to $US6.5 million this year, one Peak Crossing property bought for only $50,800 in 2000 is now worth at least $1.75 million.

The Words Of Peace conference Ivory's Rock Conference Center Followers of " The Maharaji" gather at Peak Crossing

FIELD OF DREAMS: Thousands of devotees have arrived in Queensland this week, each having paid thousands of dollars to attend a Prem Rawat conference.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Prem Rawat is also the sole shareholder in Orama Holdings, a company based at Beechmont, in the Gold Coast hinterland, that since 2010 has held separate assets such as unspecified local property.

The 55-year-old guru, who was introduced to Australians as a teenager in the early 1970s and then had followers or "Premies" lining up to kiss his feet, also enjoys access to a riverside Fig Tree Pocket mansion on 1.7ha bequeathed by a devotee and now owned by another Channel Islands company.

The five-day conference is run by Ivory's Rock Foundation, an income tax-exempt Australian charity that will receive more than $2 million on ticket sales, ranging from the $400 "early-bird day visitor" package to the $3220 "deluxe" package.

The Words Of Peace conference Ivory's Rock Conference Center Followers of " The Maharaji" gather at Peak Crossing

The Words Of Peace conference for followers of "The Maharaji" gather at Peak Crossing property.

Orama Holdings director Jan McGregor said the foundation had "no business dealings, transactions or inter-relationships whatsoever" with Orama, which was "entirely funded directly by Mr Rawat's personal funds from the US".

A foundation spokeswoman said the guru's travel costs were "paid by another organisation that handles the global logistics".

Eleni Kyriacopoulou, of Athens, and a follower since 1987, was making her fifth visit to Peak Crossing.

The Words Of Peace conference Ivory's Rock Conference Center Followers of " The Maharaji" gather at Peak Crossing

Followers of " The Maharaji" gather at a Peak Crossing property.

"Expensive? I don't know. For the experience, not," she said.

Another devotee of 40 years said he did not begrudge his guru's lifestyle as he was "the hardest-working person I know".

"I tried to give him money when I sold my house a few years ago but I found there was no way to give it directly - all doors were slammed in my face," he said.

Prem Rawat's teachings on transcendental meditation were "very easily misunderstood".

"It can sound like a cult, and it absolutely isn't," the devotee said.

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said Prem Rawat had "caused no harm to our community", his group had "always been great corporate citizens" and their conference centre was "a tremendous facility".

"More people promoting peace in this world is good news to me. I'm sick and tired of seeing our troops come home in boxes," he said.

However, staunch local opponent Jim Barrow said the group's plans to rent out their centre to schools and organisations faced "a huge hurdle".