Controversial American swami dies

Controversial former leader of the American Hare Krishna movement Swami Bhaktipada, who had been imprisoned in the US in various criminal cases, has died after protracted illness in a private hospital here.

Last Updated: Oct 25, 2011, 18:19 PM IST

Thane: Controversial former leader of the
American Hare Krishna movement Swami Bhaktipada, who had been
imprisoned in the US in various criminal cases, has died after
protracted illness in a private hospital here.

Bhaktipada (74) died Monday morning at Jupiter Hospital,
where he was undergoing treatment for cancer and renal failure
since July.

The former spiritual leader was responding well to the
treatment until last week, when his kidneys began to fail,
hospital sources said, adding that his body was handed over to
the devotees from Kalyan.

Swami Bhaktipada, also known as Kirtananand Swami, was
born as Keith Ham in 1937 in Peekskill, New York, as the son
of a Baptist minister and was one of the first Americans to
become a disciple of Hare Krishna movement founder A C
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

In 1968, he founded the largest Hare Krishna community in
America called the New Vrindaban, located in the hills near
Moundsville.

However, by the mid-1980s, the place got mired in
controversy, following investigations into charges of sexual
abuse of children by staff at its school and murder of two
devotees. The US government claimed that he had illegally
amassed more than USD 10.5 million over four years.

Swami Bhaktipada was convicted of racketeering and
sentenced to prison in 1990s. He appealed against his
racketeering conviction in 1991, then pleaded guilty at a
second trial in August 1996 and was sentenced to 20 years in
prison. His sentence was reduced to 12 years in 1997
considering his poor health.

Bhaktipada was freed four years early from a prison in
2004, but was barred from returning to New Vrindaban and
eventually moved to India in 2008.

PTI