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Jeweled Watches Seized From Rajneesh to Be Sold

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United Press International

The U.S. Customs Service says it will sell two dozen jewel-studded watches seized from Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the Indian guru, before he was ordered out of the United States in 1985.

The watches are valued at $500,000, but the Customs Service hopes they will fetch more for the Treasury.

Customs spokesman Clyde Kelly said 23 items of jewelry, mostly watches, were seized from Rajneesh in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 28, 1985, when he tried to flee the United States to avoid arrest on a federal indictment for immigration fraud.

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The guru subsequently pleaded guilty to arranging sham marriages among his disciples to help them evade immigration laws. He paid a $400,000 fine and forfeited a bag of jewelry seized at the time of his arrest.

In exchange, he was allowed to leave the United States with a promise that he would not return for at least five years. He lives in Poona, India.

Kelly said customs has been holding the jewelry pending completion of litigation against Rajneesh and several of his followers who established a commune on a 72,000-acre cattle ranch in central Oregon in 1981.

“Now we intend to sell them,” he said. “There are one or two brooches, but it’s mostly watches. They have jeweled bands and jeweled faces.

“They are pretty gaudy, if you ask me.”

Some of the watches have an estimated value of $40,000. But they will be turned over to a broker for sale at the best price customs can get.


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