Surjit Singh Sold Gold Coast Gurudwara for $5.61m - Eyebrows raised over $1m in donations.
News published by NRI Herald, 07 September 2021
As per the multiple reports published by various Australian news portals, in one such report by The courier Mail says A Gold Coast religious community has been left without a place of worship and raised questions over the use of almost $1m in donations after its brand new temple was sold to another religious group for $5.61m. Members of the Sikh community, say they are “in shock” and “broken hearted” at the loss of their gathering place.
But the man behind the sale Mr Singh, 41, who says it became inevitable after “internal bickering” and lack of financial support made the temple unsustainable.
The reports further says that Surjit singh rubbed shoulders with the city’s top politicians, including Member for Fadden Stuart Robert who awarded the project a $20,000 federal government grant in 2019.
Original Gurdwara was proposed in 2017:
Original gurudwara was proposed in 2017 on an 8300 sq m site on Shepperton Road, adjacent to the Helensvale North exit on the M1 motorway and the story was written by Gold Coast Bulletin
The Helensvale Gurdwara Sahib, on an 8300 sq m site on Shepparton Road, had been open just over two years before it was sold in July to the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Local Sikhs tried to stop the sale by staging a peaceful protest and online campaign. They also made two offers to buy the property from Mr Singh’s foundation, but were unable to raise or borrow enough money to go through with a sale.
The temple was sold by the Gold Coast Sikh Foundation, a private company directed and ultimately owned by accountant Surjit Ahluwalia Singh.
Where did the donations go?
As per the new portal report report which further tells that Property records show Mr Singh’s Gold Coast Sikh Foundation bought the land at Helensvale for $650,000 in 2016.
While the Helensvale property was registered in the name of the private foundation, donations and grants were collected through a registered charity, the Gold Coast Sikh Council, founded by Mr Singh and directed by him until 2019. Mr Singh said his foundation leased the temple to the Sikh council, which was created to receive donations for the rent and operational costs.
As per the reports, Mr Singh said that the Gold Coast Sikh Council received “a little under $1 million” in donations over four years and reiterated none of that money was used to build the temple.
During its public fundraising while Mr Singh was a director, the Sikh council was not clear about what the donations would be used for. A flyer for the Sikh council, which appeared on fundraising platform mycause.com.au , requested “urgent financial assistance to raise the much-needed balance to complete” the temple.
Another website, goldcoastsikhtemple.com.au , which domain records show was registered by Mr Singh, also gives the impression that donations to the Sikh council were to be used for both the development and establishment of the temple. That website provided bank details for the Gold Coast Sikh Cultural Fund, saying the project had an estimated cost of $3.65m.
As per the report from Gold Coast Bulletin Mr Singh said his foundation leased the temple to the Sikh council, which was created to receive donations for the rent and operational costs.
“Neither the members of the Sikh Community nor Gold Coast Sikh Council Ltd made any contribution to the costs of acquiring the land and building the temple,” Mr Singh said via email.
“Fit outs for air-conditioning equipment and installation, audio visual equipment, carpet installation, kitchen installation and any joinery were all done to the specifications of Gold Coast Sikh Council and those costs were met by Gold Coast Sikh Foundation from its borrowings.”
As per the reports; A member of the community, who did not want to be named, this week said the congregation was “in shock” at what had unfolded since.
“They never said it would be a single owner or anything like that and we happily said we would help,” he said.
“Donations for the temple came from all over – from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. At the groundbreaking day $50,000 was raised and another $50,000 was raised on the opening day.Another $40,000-$50,000 was raised at each of our special days as well – for the fireworks night for Diwali, New Year and the Foundation Day of Sikh.
Members were stunned on April 30 when a relative of Surjit Singh announced that the temple would be sold.
“We tried to collect money to save the temple, but none of the banks would give us that much. We couldn’t do it,” the member said.
“The community is in shock right now, it’s breaking everyone’s hearts.”
As per the report published, Until queried by the Gold Coast Bulletin, the Sikh council had never lodged an information statement with the Australian Charities and Not-for Profits Commission.
This week it lodged documents for 2018 and 2019, stating it had received $273,778 in donations and $20,000 in government funding over the two years, and had spent $217,231.
The council’s financial report and annual information statements, which were due by January 31, remain overdue, with Mr Singh saying they were “in the process of being audited”.
Mr Singh is the founder of a second charity, the Gold Coast Sikh Cultural Fund, which as of last week, had lodged one statement in five years.
The fund lodged its overdue statements after Mr Singh was contacted by the Bulletin.
In the 2017-18 financial year, the fund reported donations of $158,674 and expenses of just $604. It reported assets of $237,439.
In 2018-19 the fund reported $68,884 in donations, $597 in expenses and $305,726 in assets.
The latest statement, for 2019-20, showed the cultural fund received donations of $3731. It made a donation of $308,000 and had other expenses of $312, leaving its assets at $1145.
Foundation (A private Company) also owns Interior design business:
The Gold Coast Sikh Foundation’s ultimate holding company, Singh Holdings, which is solely directed and owned by Mr Singh, also owns his interior design business Surjio Ceanee.
As per the report, Surjio Ceanee boasted on Instagram of completing the project management and design of the temple.
However, Mr Singh said contractors for the temple were
“engaged on an arm's-length basis and neither (he) nor his associated companies were engaged in the building of the temple”.
Personality issues and India's farmer protests killed the dreams- “Nothing changed. My vision had failed.”
As per the reports published; Mr Singh said donations, many of which had been received via money boxes in the temple, evaporated.
“After a time, Gold Coast Sikh Council started missing rent payments,” he said.
“Gold Coast Sikh Foundation provided concessions and extensions of time to try to assist but eventually it became clear that those who opposed the temple had destroyed the support which it had in the community.”
Geelong-born Mr Singh said the rivalries came to a head around the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, sparked by politics in India.
Mr Singh said activists on the Gold Coast sought to “politicise the temple” over the issue and “matters became intense”.
He said by March prayer hall congregations for Saturday worship had dwindled to single figures.
“I published a video on Facebook in which I explained that if the community did not support the temple, it would not be able to continue and would be closed down,” Mr Singh said.
“Nothing changed. My vision had failed.”