The Kabbalah center and Madonna’s charity under investigation for tax evasion

Just days after a report came out in NY Magazine detailing the many ways that the founders of the Kabbalah cult were living large while screwing their congregationalists (metaphorically I guess), comes news that they’re under investigation for tax evasion. Madonna’s Raising Malawi charity, which is closely tied to Kabbalah, recently scrapped plans to build a $15 million school in Malawi and there are rumors of financial misdoing. Raising Malawi, The Kabbalah Centre, and several others Kabbalah-based charities have been named in a subpoena by the IRS as the subject of a grand jury probe.


The Kabbalah Centre, the Los Angeles-based spiritual organization that mingles ancient Jewish mysticism with the glamour of its celebrity devotees, is the focus of a federal tax evasion investigation probing, among other things, the finances of two charities connected to Madonna, the center’s most famous adherent.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the criminal division of the IRS is looking into whether nonprofit funds were used for the personal enrichment of the Berg family, which has controlled the Kabbalah Centre for more than four decades, a period in which it expanded from one school of a little-known strain of Judaism to a global brand with A-list followers like Ashton Kutcher and Gwyneth Paltrow and assets that may top $260 million.

Those cooperating with the IRS include representatives of one of Madonna’s charities, Raising Malawi. The nonprofit is named in subpoenas as a subject of the grand jury probe alongside the Bergs and Kabbalah Centre organizations despite having cut its ties with the center this spring.

“We have tried to provide as much information as we can as quickly as possible to the people who are investigating and are very actively cooperating in every way we can,” said Trevor Neilson of Global Philanthropy Group, a consulting firm now managing Raising Malawi.

In a statement in response to questions about the probe, the Kabbalah Centre acknowledged that it and one of its charities, Spirituality for Kids, “have received subpoenas from the government concerning tax-related issues.”

“The Centre and SFK intend to work closely with the IRS and the government, and are in the process of providing responsive information to the subpoenas,” according to the statement.

The IRS and the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York declined to comment. People with knowledge of the investigation said it began last year and is playing out on two coasts. A federal grand jury in Manhattan, where the Kabbalah Centre has a large branch and real estate holdings, is gathering evidence there, according to the subpoenas. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, where the center is headquartered on Robertson Boulevard, a team of IRS agents dispatched from the agency’s New York criminal division is interviewing people connected to the organization, said individuals familiar with the agents’ activities.

Among the items that investigators have reviewed, according to one source, is an August 2010 email in which a former chief financial officer of the center complained that he had been fired for pointing out financial improprieties and warned that the center was in danger of “committing suicide.”

Former CFO: Income tax fraud… I have little choice… but to bring down the entire Kabbalah Centre
“I recently uncovered instances of income tax fraud at the Kabbalah Centre — instances which could bankrupt several of the directors involved … this is very serious business,” the former CFO, Nicholas Vakkur, wrote in an email that circulated among high-level officials at the center. “I have little choice but to cooperate with the IRS and bring down the entire Kabbalah Centre,” Vakkur wrote, adding a plea that “someone in authority” try to “reason” with center Chief Executive Karen Berg.

[From The La Times]

The article goes on to say that The Spirituality for Kids Kabbalah-based charity is also being investigated. Madonna was the chairwoman of the board on that charity and donated $600,000 of her own money. She put $11 million into Raising Malawi with hardly any results. Do you think she’ll cut ties with Kabbalah now that they’re under the gun? Madonna throws people under the bus when they make her look bad, so I’m just waiting for some kind of statement from her distancing herself from the organization and stating that she had no idea about any wrongdoing.

This just makes me wonder how Scientology has avoided tax evasion charges in the US up until now, and I believe the answer is intimidation and litigation. Still, this is definitely a start.

Meanwhile, Madonna, 54, and her latest 24 year-old boytoy, Brahim Zaibat (pronounced “Jailbait”) have split up, reportedly over religion. Zaibat is Muslim and Madonna of course belongs to a mystical Jewish-based cult. I would speculate that maybe Zaibat refused to get circumcised for Madonna, but from what I can find male circumcision is common among Muslims. So he had that going for him.

Madonna is shown on 5/2 and 2/27/11. Credit:




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14 Responses to “The Kabbalah center and Madonna’s charity under investigation for tax evasion”

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  1. brin says:

    Good…it’s about time these cults get investigated!

  2. constance says:

    The fishy smell has been coming off her Malawi charity for some time now. They must have concrete evidence from someone to move to subpoenas. Scam is a scam, no matter who heads the endorsements.

    @CB: Operation Snow White is one of the many ways Co$ has been able to undeservingly take tax exempt status as a “religious” body like churches with real faith bases.

  3. Emily says:

    Yeah, when I clicked on this link my first thought was when are they going to move on Scientology? The Co$ is a lot shadier than Kabbalah IMO.

  4. Sue says:

    My guess would be start with the little fish like Kabbalah and work their way up to Scientology to make shore they have all their ducks in a row because Scientology is a scary cult and there’s no telling what they would do.

    Is Demi and Ashton foundation under investigation also?

  5. gloaming says:

    I’ve been following this on another site (showbiz.411) where the NY magazine seems to have gleaned it’s information..

    And all of a sudden is getting Malaware warnings so beware!!!

    Details of Cayman Island accounts

    $1 Million Of Missing Madonna Raising Malawi Money Came from AmFAR

    There’s loads more info there, but basically from what I can see Tracy Anderson’s then boyfriend Phillippe van den Boscche who was working for Madonna’s Raising Malawi charity, started questioning where the money was going. Madonna (using Kabbalah as a front) then hired a PR firm run by Chris Lehane, of Fabiani and Lehane and his parter Mark Fabiani known as “The Masters of Disaster” – they consequently threw Van Den Boscche under the bus and blamed his flamboyant and unnecessary spending habits for the loss/disappearance of the money.

    I guess Madge and Tracy fell out because of this but perhaps this is why she and Gwynnie stopped speaking also…….

    It’s also worth mentioning that Aston Kutcher Donna Karan & Madge were all on the board of this charity and the investigation is focused on Kabbalah’s accounting but I’ve read that they may already be subpoena(ing)? lots of members in secret.

    I’m seriously peed off that they asked and AIDS charity to donate money. And it’s nowhere to be found.

  6. flourpot says:

    Used to be quite the business woman, this one. Getting sloppy in her old age. /tongueincheek

  7. sapphire says:

    So much for the disclaimer on her web site that the investigations was just rumors and lies.

    Madonna had a rep as a savy business person. This makes me think she got ego blinded.

  8. MoMo says:

    Maybe co$ investigation is more covert.

  9. couldnthelpit says:

    This comment is off-topic, but the last line made me giggle a bit. I just pictured you googling “male circumcision muslim”

  10. harfang says:

    Finally. Gawd. Get your damnable cultiness away from my national and world Jewry. As if the ultra-Orthodoxy doesn’t make me stabby enough.

  11. Lisa Turtle says:

    Scientology has defended itself against far worse than tax evasion.

    Scientology is currently accused of SLAVERY and indentured servitude, claims brought against them by anonymous Sea Org. (Scientology Clergy)

  12. truthzbetta says:

    I still love the episode of Charlie Rose where two real rabbis lambasted this Berg character for having a celebrity fronting and debasing the religion.

    The celebs are so easy to bilk for cult brainwashers b/c all they have to do is tell the narcissist “you control the universe” (The Secret, Kabbalah) “Do as thou wilst, no rules for the highest beings” (Scientology) and they suddenly think they’re a true magical, god-like being.

    Only a child or a celebrity would believe they are a god.

  13. Bopa says:

    Let’s hope that the C0$s is next.

  14. Darolo says:

    The subpoenas are for documents not individuals. The documents are all being provided without question. Your facts are wrong regarding the rift between Madonna and Tracy Anderson. Madonna requires a trainer to be with her on tour. Tracy did not want to fulfil that obligation, despite having agreed to it, once she became involved with Phillipe. She basically did not complete contractual agreements. It would appear also that Madonna felt Tracy Anderson has used the Madonna brand to further her own career (and that does seem obvious). Madonna does not like to be used in that way.