The city of Newark in the US state of New Jersey was duped in January into signing an agreement with Kailasa, a fictional country founded by self-styled religious leader Nithyananda, reported The New York Post on Wednesday.

On January 12, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka had signed an agreement with the delegates of Kailasa to join a sister city programme, which was established after the second World War to promote cultural and commercial ties between two municipalities around the world.

“I pray that our relationship helps us to understand cultural, social and political development and improves the lives of everybody in both places,” Baraka had said at the signing ceremony.

However, the deal was rescinded a few days later after the city of Newark discovered that Kailasa does not exist.

Nithyananda, who has been accused of rape, claims that he founded the United States of Kailasa in 2019. But Kailasa is not among the 193 countries recognised by the United Nations.

Earlier this month, the United Nations also decided to ignore statements made by representatives of Kailasa at two official events of the global body held in Geneva on February 22 and February 24.

Newark officials said that the agreement with Kailasa had lasted six days and has been rendered baseless. The officials also claimed that no money was exchanged as part of the agreement.

“Although this was a regrettable incident, the city of Newark remains committed to partnering with people from diverse cultures in order to enrich each other with connectivity, support, and mutual respect,” a city spokesperson said.

Newark resident Shakee Merritt told CBS News he was surprised that not one person in the city hall had done a search on Google about the country. “So maybe we need a transformation of city hall ‘cause not one person said, let me go and Google and figure out this was a fake city,” he added.

According to its website, Kailasa is as an “ancient enlightened civilisation [and] the great cosmic borderless Hindu nation”. It also describes Nithyananda as “The Reviver” and claims that he is worshiped by more than 20 million persons in 196 countries around the world.

Nithyananda had fled India after he was accused of rape and of confining children in his ashram illegally. In 2019, New Delhi had cancelled Nithyananda’s passport and also rejected his application for a fresh one. He is accused of abducting children and using them to raise money for his ashram.