On a Wing and a Prayer
On a Saturday afternoon in January 2005, a short Indian minister stormed into Gallery Furniture in Houston and demanded to speak to owner Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale.
There are few places as crowded as Gallery Furniture on a Saturday, but the man, surrounded by his entourage, was insistent. A staff member summoned McIngvale, who agreed to talk with the man for a few minutes.
He introduced himself as Dr. K.A. Paul. He was a famous globetrotting minister based in Houston. He wanted to bring medical supplies to tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, but he needed $200,000 for gas money. He needed it now.
"The whole thing was kind of surreal," McIngvale recalls. He'd never heard of Paul. And he'd just donated $250,000 to the tsunami relief program launched by former presidents Bush and Clinton.
"I just figured, if you've got enough money to buy a billion-dollar airplane, you oughta have enough money to [pump it] full of gas," McIngvale says. "That'd be like some guy in a brand-new Rolls-Royce pulling up here asking for gas money."
It smelled bad. McIngvale denied Paul's request.
So the minister did what any good Christian would do: He held a press conference blaming McIngvale for withholding desperately needed supplies from helpless children.
Paul was not used to being denied. His ministry claims powerful backers. Dallas millionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt was a major contributor. Cincinnati Reds owner Carl Lindner Jr., too. Flying around the world in his 747, Global Peace One, Paul says he's counseled dictators Charles Taylor, Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. He claims to operate the biggest, most successful orphanage in India. He's saved countless widows in India and brought peace to Rwanda. His peacekeeping missions have succeeded where America's have failed, which has put him in the crosshairs of A-list enemies like Condoleezza Rice.
But an investigation into Anand Kilari--the man who calls himself Dr. K.A. Paul--showed some far less admirable moments in his life, including:
··· Claiming another minister's leper colony as his own and videotaping said lepers for a promotional video.
·· ·Transporting children in an airplane one former crew member called a "flying death trap."
·· ·Leaving a trail of unpaid bills for the plane's fuel and maintenance.
·· ·Interfering with a murder investigation in India, earning the wrath of that country's National Council of Churches.
·· ·Fleeing to the United States from India after nine of his American volunteers were arrested and thrown in prison.
··· Abandoning an 11-year-old Indian girl after checking her into a hospital.
The investigation revealed a story much different from the one spun by Kilari and his supporters. It's the story of an egomaniac with a doctored past and an obsession with an airplane that receives more money than starving orphans in India, a man whose hubris and deceptions have burned nearly every bridge that was supposed to lead him to his true, unspoken goal: to show the world that where there once was Mother Teresa, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., there is now Dr. K.A. Paul.
Kilari's most immediate problem is a civil lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The suit, filed by the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces, alleges that Kilari defrauded the Friends out of $850,000 the group paid him to fly them on his plane to Poland and Israel for a Holocaust memorial. (Kilari also has been referred to as Kilari Anand. His Texas driver's license, however, lists him as Anand Kilari.)
The suit's many charges include fraud and conspiracy, alleging that Kilari and key staff never intended to fly the passengers to Poland and Israel.
After the group's original travel plans fell through, a mutual contact introduced The Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces to Kilari, who was already heading to the Middle East to meet the heads of Libya, Syria and India. He was doing this for his humanitarian organization, Global Peace Initiative, a separate entity from his evangelical outfit, Gospel to the Unreached Millions. The letterheads change, depending on whom Kilari wants money from. In dealing with 90-some Jews flying to Auschwitz, Global Peace Initiative was the better bet. Kilari asked the group to pencil in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. They agreed, and everything was set.
Global Peace Initiative, however, did not have a permit to conduct charter flights. In order to accept the $850,000, Kilari had to make it clear that the money was a "donation" for a "partnership." This was made clear in GPI's internal e-mails, copies of which were obtained by the Houston Press, the Dallas Observer's sister paper.
"Many have insisted on calling this a charter--which would be illegal. We should never even respond or we should respond only by saying that we have no charter flight...We have no charter, only a partnership...Please be very alert because if [FIDF] could get some of us to respond to them that this is a charter, they could be financially relieved of their contribution and Dr. Paul could go to jail."
Another problem, according to the suit and the internal e-mails, was that Global Peace One was not ready to fly. The plane's permit requires it to undergo an annual maintenance inspection the FAA calls a C-check. Extremely expensive, C-checks require a crew of dozens to comb through the aircraft as it sits, out of commission, in a hangar. The suit alleges that Kilari never intended to fly the Jewish group to Poland and Israel; the plan was to use their money to fix the plane for inspection.
According to Global Peace Initiative's internal e-mails, the organization has left a trail of unpaid airport bills all over the globe, including Poland, whose flight authorities wouldn't let the plane land until they paid their tab. The e-mails show that in the 48 hours before they were supposed to fly, GPI staff scrambled to pay airports, amend insurance policies and pass the C-check.
Indeed, while the plane underwent inspection in a hangar at DFW International Airport, GPI International Director Doug Dodson fired off an angry e-mail accusing the Israeli government of disrupting Kilari's peacekeeping mission. Israel had denied Kilari's request for a multi-entry visa, which would have allowed the plane to drop the passengers off in Tel Aviv, go on to Syria and Sudan and return to meet with Sharon and collect the passengers. It appears that meeting Sharon was very important to Kilari. Dodson's letter to the Israeli government uses Kilari's real name instead of "K.A. Paul," the only such use of the name in any of GPI's letters to heads of state.
In the e-mail to FIDF Chairman Larry Hochberg, Dodson writes: "Israel's arrogance toward us stands in stark contrast to the 51 presidents who have attended our rallies or have come to meet Dr. Paul in other venues. A perfect example is Israel's neighbor Ethiopia, whose 80 year old president, His Excellency President Girma, broke all rules of protocol to come to personally meet us at the airport with a red carpet welcome." (According to one passenger on that voyage, it was Kilari who brought his own red carpet.)
Without the multi-entry visa, Dodson wrote, the Jewish group had three options: Get off in Poland and find its own way to Israel, fly with Kilari to Syria before going to Israel, or cancel outright. The group called the bluff and chose Door No. 3. Because the $850,000 was a "donation," Global Peace Initiative refused to refund the money, which was sunk into the plane instead. Less than a month after Kilari stood up the Jewish group, the plane took a last-minute jaunt to Canada, where it confused officials at the tiny Thunder Bay, Ontario, airport, which hadn't serviced a 747 in years. It sat there for about a week, at which point the Federal Aviation Administration deemed it unairworthy. Yet for some reason, the administration permitted Kilari to fly the plane to Tijuana, where it is now collecting dust in a vacant lot.
Some time after earning a degree in economics at Bentley College in Massachusetts, Charles Ghankay Taylor returned to his native Liberia and became one of the most vicious African warlords in recent history.
He also became Kilari's friend.
Kilari says he met Taylor in 2003 and convinced him to relinquish his presidency. That same year, the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone indicted Taylor for crimes against humanity. Among the atrocities outlined in the indictment was the assertion that Taylor abducted children under 15 and used them to back rebel forces who were pillaging Sierra Leone's diamond deposits. The court accused Taylor of encouraging rebels to kill untold numbers of civilians and force women into sexual slavery.
Taylor lived in exile in Nigeria until this March, when he surrendered to UN authorities. As usual, Kilari was there.
The Houston Press caught up with Kilari shortly after he returned to Houston. The last 48 hours had been rough. Kilari touched down in Houston around 1 a.m. From there, he drove to his home in Huffman, patching an Associated Press reporter in to his talks with Taylor and Taylor's wife, Jewel.
Remarkably, sometime around 10 a.m., he slept, which is something the 43-year-old rarely seems to do. Just clearing five feet, with a light frame and charming smile, Kilari is a bottle rocket, ready to jump in his plane and blast off to see some notorious leader at a moment's notice. Taylor's isn't the only warlord's number in his cell phone. Kilari claims to have spent quality time with Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. He considers it a testament to his insider status that he knew al-Qaida's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi when he was a "nobody."
Kilari is incensed that Condoleezza Rice and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo took credit for inducing Taylor's surrender. Three years ago, he says, they also stole credit for Taylor's resignation. Kilari wants them both impeached.
In 2003, on the day Nigerian authorities took Taylor aboard a plane bound for his new home in Nigeria, television footage showed Kilari trying to board the plane as well, only to get shoved away like a nerd attempting to sit at the cool kids' table. They treated him like he was a nobody, and to Kilari, that is the greatest injustice of all.
"How could she do this, to this great country, America?" he asks. "How are we turning friends into enemies? Is it because of Condi Rice's failure...in Iraq war? Failure in catching top-10 al-Qaida? Failure because Hamas being elected for the first time?"
Kilari realizes it might look weird to offer guidance to some of the world's most hated men. But, he says, the blacker the soul, the greater the need for redemption. Citing the book of Acts, he says Taylor is working hard to change "from Saul to Paul."
"Taylor did not cause any problem in the last years I've known him," Kilari says. "Look at him--he's in Sierra Leone for 10 days now. Not a single soul died, because he promised me he will not cause any problem. I said, 'The day you cause a problem through your 40,000 troops, I'm out. If you are a changed man, show me your fruit.'"
So how does one become Minister to the Dictators, anyway?
Well, Kilari's route began when he was born into a low caste in Andhra Pradesh, southern India. He spent his first 19 years trying to rub two dimes together, not knowing anything about Jesus until he woke up one morning with a vision of souls burning in hell.
He decided to dedicate his life to saving the millions of souls in the Third World who never knew Jesus. He set about to be the Billy Graham of India. He never trained at a seminary, but he claims to have an honorary doctorate from a Bible college in Swan River, Manitoba. The director of the school, however, said he could not find any records verifying that claim.
Nevertheless, by the late '90s, Kilari would establish Paul's Charity City in Hyderabad, India, a first-class orphanage that cares for 1,000 children. Near Charity City was a facility for widows, whom Kilari calls Little Teresas. The widows help care for the orphans, giving them a purpose in their lives, without which, Kilari says, the widows would be either suicides or prostitutes.
The 15 or so years between Kilari's spiritual vision and the creation of the orphanage, however, are a bit vague, something no one in the ministry likes to talk about.
But a Colorado Springs businessman named Ted Beckett doesn't mind talking. In fact, he and his wife, Audrey, investigated Kilari after they joined him on a disastrous trip to India. They subsequently wrote a nine-page account of their findings, which they shared with a few other missionaries, including some in Dallas. Several of these missionaries, who asked not to be identified, appended the Becketts' account with corroborating letters, news reports and personal testimony. The resulting data tells a much different story from the one Kilari tells.
When the Becketts met Kilari in 1995, they were instantly intrigued by his stories of bringing Jesus to the forgotten corners of the world. They were especially interested in a leper colony Kilari claimed to operate in India.
But shortly after they traveled with Kilari to India, the Becketts learned that the leper colony was actually run by a different ministry. Yet that didn't keep Kilari from sending camera crews to film the lepers for his own promotional material.
Even more unsettling to the Becketts was the indication that when Kilari was 19, he was not seeing demons but was hijacking the ministry of noted Indian minister P.J. Titus.
Kilari has always denied working for Titus, but Titus' autobiography includes a photo of Kilari at Titus' desk, assisting him "in the business side of ministry," circa 1983.
"The second thing he did," according to information compiled by the Becketts, "was to arrange a Gospel Crusade Meeting and hire some fellows to come and beat him up. Before this happened, they called CNN and tipped them that there would be a newsworthy event at this meeting. At a signal, when the cameras were in place, the fellows broke up the meeting and beat K.A. Paul. This news report came over the international wire service, and it was aired here in the States. As a result, K.A. Paul was able to wriggle his way into the hearts of the unsuspecting here. He was a guest on TBN [a far-reaching evangelical TV network], which gave him credibility, and then as a result he was received by many unsuspecting ministries as their guest."
Kilari eventually won over Bill McCartney, one of the most important evangelicals of the mid-'90s. A former football coach at the University of Colorado, McCartney founded Promise Keepers, which packed stadiums with thousands of men who vowed to follow Jesus by becoming proper heads of household. McCartney joined Kilari's board of directors and wrote the foreword to Kilari's autobiography, Left for Dead.
"I am so drawn to the fire of God I see in this man," McCartney wrote. "I don't know of anyone in the world who is more used by God today than Dr. K.A. Paul."
McCartney's endorsement, along with others, made it easy for Kilari to bring evangelical groups to India to witness his rallies, which is how nine American missionaries--including a few from Houston--wound up in an Indian jail in 1995.
While the Becketts were with Kilari in India, Kilari hastily organized a rally without the proper permits. As was standard operating procedure with Kilari rallies of the time, his supporters erected 20-foot wooden statues of Kilari and plastered trees with posters showing his smiling visage. The posters promised healing and salvation. According to Beckett, and to news reports at the time, local authorities denied an open-air rally, instead directing the American missionaries to a tiny village church to conduct their healing.
Chaos erupted when crowds surrounded the church, and authorities were dispatched to maintain order. Things turned ugly, and the missionaries were whisked off to jail. Fearing arrest, Kilari caught the first plane to New Delhi, and from there he flew to the States. Beckett spent the next 24 hours calling every embassy he could to get the men released.
After the prisoners were released, an e-mail from Helen Collings in the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv detailed Kilari's actions.
"Please advise Mr. Beckett that K.A. Pal [sic], the organizer of this religious meeting, fled to the U.S. and no one, repeat no one, in India ever darkened the doorstep of the prison from Pal's religious group until I was finally able to get a hold of Pal's brother...Unfortunately, we feel that Mr. K.A. Pal has been spreading a number of false rumors in the U.S. to the families and to some of the Congressmen...It could have been a lot more difficult if we hadn't found out about the 9 when we did, since [Kilari's ministry] never contacted us about the arrests."
Two years after the Becketts compiled their information, Kilari used his Forrest Gump-like power of ubiquity to finagle an invitation to a Southern Baptist pastors' conference in Dallas. No one really knew who he was, other than he had been vetted by McCartney and others. But when he took the stage, he broke Southern Baptist Convention protocol by asking for donations.
According to a subsequent Associated Baptist Press story, "Several [Convention] leaders exchanged a flurry of letters and phone calls questioning Paul's background and criticizing his selection for the Pastors' Conference program."
Afraid they'd looked like they'd endorsed Kilari, and afraid his ministry was not financially accountable to any independent authority, the Convention's International Mission Board issued a vote of no confidence regarding Kilari's ministry.
Kilari denied the claims, calling them lies "from the pit of hell." He told The Dallas Morning News, "There's a jealousy involved...among people trying to take credit for my work."
More criticism followed. In 1999, the National Council of Churches of India issued a warning, calling his promotional material "extremely exaggerated" literature that provokes "apprehension in the minds of the public as well as our Government about the intentions and credibility of all churches in India."
At the time the letter was issued, Indian officials were in the village of Manoharpur, investigating the murder of an Australian missionary. Despite the council's request, Kilari whisked into town, scooped up three murder investigation witnesses in a helicopter and used them as publicity tools in a rally.
And in 2005, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, an accrediting organization of more than 1,100 ministries, terminated Kilari's membership. The council stated that Kilari's ministry did not have a fully functioning board of directors and there were no "adequate controls in place to provide reasonable assurance that all resources are used to accomplish the ministry's exempt purposes."
In July 2005, Kilari's last excursion in his private plane drew even more heat.
For that trip, Kilari gathered 10 girls he claimed were from his orphanage in India and flew them to the United States for two scheduled fund-raisers. These were to take place at the governor's mansion in Little Rock and at the home of Cincinnati millionaire philanthropist Carl Lindner Jr.
Things went awry when one of the 11-year-old girls took ill and wound up in the District of Columbia's Children's National Medical Center. The girl suffered from undiagnosed diabetes, but she was ready to be released within 72 hours, says Mindy Good, spokeswoman for the district's Child and Family Services Agency. It is not clear if the other nine girls ever went on to Little Rock and Cincinnati.
Good's agency got involved because, after that 72 hours, no one from GPI was there to take the little girl home. That's because they were flying to Ontario.
Not knowing what to do with the girl, since no one wanted to claim her, hospital lawyers decided to sue for custody. Washington City Paper, which obtained court transcripts from the sealed file, quoted the hospital's lawyer as saying, "We have no idea of how this charity has these children."
Meanwhile, Kilari supporter Evander Holyfield showed up at the U.S. State Department with eight of the orphans at his side.
"One of the little girls has diabetes and is in critical condition," Holyfield told The Washington Times. He said the girl needed her Indian caretaker, who could not get a U.S. visa. He said that without the caretaker, the girl's outlook was "kind of bleak."
Doug Dodson, the international director for Kilari's ministry, told the Times that the caretaker was the orphan's de facto mother.
That may have upset the girl's actual mother, who was alive and well, as hospital translators soon found out, according to Good. The girl said she didn't live with her mother because she was attending "boarding school."
When a judge decided the hospital had no case, the girl and her friends wound up in the three-bedroom apartment of a woman named Norma Juarez. When Juarez was contacted at her suburban D.C. home, she would not clarify her relationship to Kilari's ministry. But she did say the girls stayed with her and her husband for a little more than a month.
Both she and Dodson said the girl's diabetes came as a surprise, even though he said all of the orphans at Kilari's facility received health care.
And even though the girl presumably lived in Kilari's orphanage, Dodson told City Paper, "I'm so glad we brought her over here, because she would have died in India."
So who will answer questions about Kilari?
Well, not his ministry's international director, Doug Dodson. Not after an initial phone call, anyway. Speaking from his home in Tijuana, Dodson attributed the ministry's problems to Condi Rice's vendetta. When we spoke to Dodson, he said the United States was tapping his phone and monitoring his e-mails. He had recently received a death threat from a stranger with an African accent and covered his apartment's windows to thwart any snipers.
Nor is Kilari talking, not after an amiable two-hour conversation turned to tougher questions.
When Kilari is asked tough questions, he takes it as an insult. Whoever talks to Kilari must buy the K.A. Paul story, which is his trademark response to any threatening inquiries: K.A. Paul is poor and humble, but presidents bow before him. K.A. Paul's donors are among the richest in the country. K.A. Paul's private plane allows him to respond quickly to natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes. His word is his bond. Skepticism is retardation.
This is why he shouts, "You're asking stupid questions!" and adds, "You write that story, boy, you write that story and you wait for the response...Benny Hinns and T.D. Jakes are becoming millionaires and billionaires, and you're now talking to a village preacher, broke completely, can't even pay his own salaries anymore and doesn't own a $100 property anywhere in the world--"
At which point we had to ask Kilari, "You don't own a $100 property anywhere in the world, but you own a freaking 747?"
"Who owns it?"
"It is the organization owns it, you chicken!"
Kilari demanded the rest of our questions in writing. After answering a scant few, he hired a lawyer and threatened to sue.
None of Kilari's former major donors would comment for this story.
Houston's Jim McIngvale appears to be the only solicited millionaire to talk openly about Kilari and his skepticism for the man with his own 747.
In 2004, when Carl Lindner Jr. gave Kilari a few million bucks to fly medical supplies to tsunami victims, Lindner alerted the media and made sure his altruism was well documented. But when asked to describe his relationship with Kilari today, Lindner would not comment. A spokeswoman said Lindner's relationship with Kilari is "a private matter."
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is another curious figure. The Republican has made overtures of mounting a presidential campaign, and e-mails between Huckabee and Dodson show that Huckabee was extremely eager to meet Lindner, a major Republican backer.
Huckabee scheduled a fund-raiser for Kilari's people at the governor's mansion last year. But when asked if he's still friends with Kilari, Huckabee's response was vague: "It's been many months or maybe a year since we have talked," Huckabee replied in a written statement. "I have not had much contact, but it has always been cordial."
Former board member Nelson Bunker Hunt was too ill to comment, Evander Holyfield did not return numerous requests for comment, and no staff members besides Dodson wanted to talk.
Promise Keepers spokesman Steve Chavis first characterized Kilari's relationship with Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney as passing, despite the fact that McCartney had described Kilari as God's favorite preacher.
Today, Chavis says, "That was an old association, and there's no reason for Promise Keepers or Bill McCartney to work with Mr. Paul's ministry...I do not foresee us working with him in the future."
None of the others, who were once so willing to lend their names to Kilari's cause, has given a public explanation as to why they've distanced themselves. Which is precisely why Kilari has been able to move from one millionaire to the next for nearly 10 years.
From the start, his ministry has depended solely on the wealthiest evangelicals in America. With such a tenuous infrastructure, it would have shattered Kilari's ministry if any one of these Christian men had publicly criticized him.
Fortunately for Kilari, none ever has, which is why the unairworthy Global Peace One is still in Kilari's possession, awaiting the day when it can carry another group of orphans across the ocean.
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