Dharamsala, Jan 29 (IANS) Even as raids on his monastery and close aides continued for the third day Saturday, the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, said there was no China link to his activities and that the foreign currency seized was from disciples from all over the world.
Despite the recovery of huge amounts of foreign and Indian currency from the Gyuto Tantric University and Monastery premises and from his close aides in the last three days, the Karmapa’s office defended him.
A string of central government agencies got into the picture Saturday to get to the bottom of the recovery of unaccounted foreign and Indian currency worth nearly Rs.70 million (Rs.7 crore).
Aided by officials of the income tax department, enforcement directorate and intelligence bureau, the Himachal Pradesh police continued their raids on the premises of the Karmapa and his close aides at the monastery located at Sidhbari, 10 km from here.
The monastery is close to the Army base at Yol Cantt.
The Karmapa himself was questioned by state police officials and other central government agencies.
“During initial questioning, he told us that he had no idea about the foreign currency and other cash. But we are investigating the matter,” a senior police official told IANS.
The Karmapa’s sister and other close aides were also being questioned, police officials said.
The residence of Gompo Tsering, secretary of the Karmapa, who was recalled from Dehradun Saturday, was also raided Saturday.
“Foreign currency worth Rs.400,000 was recovered from his (Tsering’s) house during the search,” additional director general of police S.R. Mardi told IANS.
Tsering avoided the waiting media Saturday, saying: “I have the right to silence.”
The most baffling part of the total seizure from the monastery is the 1.1 million (Rs.7 mn) of Chinese currency and over 600,000 US Dollars.
Senior police officials said that the Chinese Yuan was “neatly packed in bundles” and did not seem like money offered by visiting devotees.
The presence of Chinese Yuan had brought the controversy about the Karmapa’s alleged links to China to the fore again. He had arrived mysteriously from his monastery near Lhasa in Tibet region January 2000.
But the Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of Tibetans, defended the Karmapa.
Talking to reporters in Bangalore, the Dalai Lama denied that there could be a Chinese link to the activities of the Karmapa.
But he added that the foreign and Indian currency should have been deposited in a bank and not kept in cash at the monastery.
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 agencies also raided a local businessman K.P. Bhardwaj, who had claimed that the Rs.10 million (Rs.1 crore) recovered from two of his men was a payment made by the Karmapa’s trust to buy land near here.
As searches continued for the third day in offices located in the monastery premises, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said the state is following protocol procedures since the Karmapa came under the purview of the central home and external affairs ministries.
“We have apprised the central government on the development. They are on the job and investigating the case. We are following protocol,” Dhumal told reporters.
He said he would raise the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi Feb 1. “It’s a serious issue and even a threat to the internal security of the state,” Dhumal said.
With the developments of the last three days bringing his office into a major cash controversy, the Karmapa, who is the 17th reincarnation of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism and the third highest ranked monk after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, missed the Saturday morning prayers and his public audience later.
He had been confined to his rooms on the top floor of the monastery even though the authorities are not officially saying that he is under house arrest.
“The foreign currency is from 25 different countries and includes large amounts of US dollars, Chinese Yuan, Hong Kong dollars, Taiwanese and other currencies,” Himachal Pradesh Director General of Police D.S. Manhas said.
The Karmapa’s office, in a statement said, they were “complying fully with the investigation”.
The raids on the Karmapa’s monastery were conducted after the police arrested two people at Mehatpur in Una district Jan 25 night and seized unaccounted Rs.1 crore from them.
Police believe 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.
In a statement issued here Saturday evening, a spokesman of the Karmapa said: “The cash in question, under current investigation by the police is offerings received for charitable purposes from local and international disciples from many different countries wishing to support His Holiness Karmapa’s various charitable activities.”
The statement denied any China-link to any activities of the Karmapa or his office.
“At this point, we can say that His Holiness Karmapa has a large following of Tibetans from Tibet, who make donations in Chinese currency,” the statement said.
The spokesman said that the Karmapa had cooperated with the investigating teams and made himself available to any kind of questioning.
“Monasteries across the world receive offerings from devotees in various forms, there is nothing surprising, new or irregular in this.”
With allegations of the Karmapa’s office being involved in an “illegal” land deal near Dharmasala, the statement said: “Because the Karmapa resides in temporary quarters in Dharamsala, his office of administration has been seeking to build a monastery as a permanent residence for His Holiness.
“This project is clearly subject to Indian government’s approval. The Gyalwang Karmapa’s office has kept the relevant Indian government agencies fully informed of its recent plans to purchase suitable land.”