Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Update : Tibetan Monastery Money Scandal

On February 1, 2011, The Enforcement Directorate (ED) reached Tibetan leader Karmapa Lama's place of residence the Gyuto Tantric University and Monastery near here and scanned documents and questioned functionaries for more than four hours.

It was not immediately clear whether the Karmapa was questioned.

A four-member ED team from Chandigarh, headed by Deputy Director V. Neeraja, was investigating into last week's recovery of unaccounted foreign and Indian currency worth nearly Rs.70 million from the monastery.

"They have scanned the account books, ledgers and documents pertaining to financial transactions. They also questioned the monastery officials about maintenance of the accounts of donations, offerings and other transactions," an official told IANS.

He said the team questioned monastery officials on the sources of the money, what purpose it was meant for, why it was unaccounted and why the Indian government was not informed about the foreign currency.

On being asked by reporters whether the ED team was satisfied with the investigations, Neeraja only said "yes".

A Himachal Pradesh Police team, led by Una's Additional Superintendent of Police K.G. Kapoor, has already questioned the Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, about the currency recovery. The Karmapa was quizzed Jan 28 as well.

A string of central government agencies are attempting to get to the bottom of the recovery of unaccounted currency. The most baffling part of the total seizure from the monastery was the 1.1 million Chinese Yuan (Rs.7 million) and over 600,000 US dollars.

The presence of Chinese Yuan brought to the fore the Karmapa's alleged links to China. He had arrived mysteriously from his monastery near Lhasa in Tibet region in January 2000.

Senior police officers said that the Chinese Yuan was "neatly packed in bundles" and did not seem like money offered by visiting devotees.

Possession of so much foreign currency could put the Karmapa, who is a refugee in India, and his aides in trouble under the Foreign Exchange Maintenance Act (FEMA).

"The foreign currencies are from 25 different countries and include large amounts of US dollars, Chinese Yuan, Hong Kong dollars, Taiwanese and other currencies," Himachal Pradesh Director General of Police D.S. Manhas said.

Police believe that the money was meant for some "illegal" land deal in Dharamsala in Kangra district with the involvement of Karmapa's aide Rubgi Chosang, also known as Shakti Lama. He is now in police custody and is being interrogated.

Five people have been arrested so far in the case.

Earlier Sunday, soon after the Karmapa was questioned by the police, a spokesperson for the Tibetan leader denied the allegations against him.

"The Karmapa has got offerings from all over the world. The cash was donated money. There is no 'hawala' link to money," spokesperson Karma Topden told reporters here.

He also denied reports about the Karmapa being a Chinese agent.

Denying all allegations, the Karmapa's counsel Naresh Mathur said the central government had already been informed about the offerings the monastery received from the devotees, including the foreigners.

"Since 2003, the administrative wing of the monastery has been asking the central government for permission to handle foreign currency received in donations, but the government has rejected the plea on the grounds that there is no such provision," he said.

Deputy Speaker of Tibetan parliament-in-exile Dolma Gyari told IANS: "The Karmapa is innocent. We do not doubt his integrity... truth will soon come out."

The Karmapa is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four sects of Buddhism. He is considered the third most important Tibetan religious head after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.

The Karmapa fled Tibet and sought refuge in India in January 2000. Ever since, he has mostly lived in the monastery in Sidhbari near Dharamsala - the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.