By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
By Jeff Balke
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
On a Saturday afternoon in January 2005, a short Indian minister stormed into Gallery Furniture 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. He had also 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 (for more about the plane, see the sidebar "The 'Flying Death Trap,' " at the end of this article), 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 a Houston Pressinvestigation 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 girl after checking her into a hospital
The investigation revealed a story much different from the one spun by Anand 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 his plane to Poland and Israel for a Holocaust memorial. (Kilari also has been referred to as Kilari Anand. However, his Texas driver's license 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.
The Friends were introduced to Kilari after their original travel plans fell through. A mutual contact introduced them to Kilari, who was already heading to the Middle East to meet the heads of Libya, Syria and India. He was doing this as a part of 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.
However, Global Peace Initiative did not have a permit to 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 the group's internal e-mails, copies of which were obtained by the Houston Press.
In a June 2005 e-mail to Kilari's staff, the group's international director wrote:
"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."