The Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa Lama’s involvement in the alleged money laundering case is taking a new turn everyday. In the latest move by the police and investigating agencies, bank accounts of the Trust and its trustees have been frozen in connection with foreign currency seizure worth over Rs 7.5 crore from a transit home of the Tibetan spiritual leader. While the Dalai Lama has asked for a thorough probe into the Karmapa case, the Monks and devotees from around the country are showing their support for the Kamapa in their own way as possible.
The headquarters of the Karma Kagu office has compiled a list of answers to the allegations that have been made. The official website of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje is maintained by the Kagyu Office.
Fact 1: The Karmapa Office of Administration has been seeking to deposit its donations in foreign currency for years. Under the Indian law, foreign currency can only be deposited in a bank by a trust or other registered institutions that have received government permission to do so, known as FCRA permission. The Karmapa Office of Administration created a trust called the Saraswati Charitable Trust, which repeatedly applied for permission but was never granted the same to deposit foreign currency. It thus created another trust, Karmae Garchen Trust, whose application for FCRA permission to deposit foreign currency was submitted last year and is still pending. With no legitimate means of depositing or exchanging this foreign currency, the money was left to pile up over time, awaiting the day when it could be legitimately deposited.
Fact 2: The Chinese Yuan represents less than 10 per cent of the total amount of foreign currency seized. The Chinese Yuan is the national currency used in Tibet and across mainland China. Tibetans from Tibet generally leave donations in Chinese Yuan. So do Buddhists from mainland China. The Yuan seized by police include Chinese Yuan notes ranging from 1 Yuan notes to larger bills, reflecting that they come from multiple individual sources.
Fact 3: The Chinese Yuan was only one of over 20 different currencies found. The presence of donations in Yuans as well as other currencies reflects His Holiness’ status as a world spiritual leader with a diverse international following that includes Tibetans and Buddhists from mainland China, whose national currency is the Yuan. It is customary for groups to pool their money and make collective donations. In Chinese culture, it is especially common to offer new notes when making donations to high abbots and senior spiritual leaders.
Fact 4: Written records of all cash donations are maintained. Donations made by devotees are placed by his attendants in a donation box. At regular intervals, the box is opened and the cashier and a group of other office staff sort and count the donations. The cashier carefully notes the total in each denomination, and painstaking records are kept of the amounts. The cashier opts to store the foreign currency openly in a dormitory room he shares with other monks, rather than in the office, which receives a larger footfall.
Fact 5: Millions of international disciples regularly leave unsolicited donations in the currencies of their home country when they come to see His Holiness the Karmapa. HH the Karmapa is the revered leader of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and the object of devotion and trust of millions of followers from all over the world. During December 2010 alone, His Holiness granted personal audience to thousands of devotees from 44 distinct nationalities, including American, British, German, Japanese, and Chinese. It is customary to leave donations of gifts such as fruit, incense or cash, as symbols of devotion to His Holiness the Karmapa, and as a means of supporting his many charitable activities.
Fact 6:HH’s role is to lead the sect spiritually and he has no role in the day-to-day management of the sect. The Karmapa reincarnation lineage has a 900-year-old history of engaging in a vast range of spiritual activities, from teaching ‘dharma’ to rigorous meditation to composing philosophical texts. HH is completely and utterly uninvolved in the handling and management of cash. The Tsurphu Labrang, known now as the Karmapa Office of Administration, has existed for hundreds of years to allow the Karmapas to devote their time and energy to their role as spiritual leaders. It manages all the worldly affairs of the Karmapa, including handling the donations and administering the finances. In this way, the Karmapa has been left free to fulfill his solemn duties as a spiritual guide to countless followers and leader of a large Buddhist order.
Fact 7: The Indian government was fully informed of the plans to buy land in Dharamsala to build a monastery for HH the Karmapa. HH has been hosted in a temporary residence in Dharamsala by another Tibetan Buddhist sect since his arrival in India in 2000. The Karmae Garchen Trust was seeking to purchase the land in its own name for the purpose of building a permanent residence and monastery for His Holiness, whose current living quarters measure 15’x15′. When the Karmae Garchen Trust identified suitable land near His Holiness’ current temporary residence in Dharamsala, it informed the office of the District Collector of Dharamsala and sought their approval to proceed with the purchase.
Fact 8: The Indian government had granted preliminary approval of the land purchase. Under the Land Reform Act, any non-Himachali and non-agriculturist requires sanction by the state government before purchasing land. The Karmae Garchen Trust sought and was granted preliminary approval by the relevant state government offices. The application was accompanied by a strong letter of support from the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They obtained both – an essentiality certificate and a no-objection certificate – from the Town and Country Planning Department of the Himachal Pradesh government, indicating state government approval to proceed with the plans to purchase the land.
Fact 9: The INR 1 crore (approx. $ 215,000) seized in the car of an Indian hotelier belonged to the seller of the land, rather than the Trust. The two men were arrested in a car with the money. The two men were agents working for the land seller, who had been given a partial payment due for the land. These agents had accepted payment in Delhi and signed a receipt from Rabgay Chusong, the monk who handles the financial matters for the Karmapa Office of Administration. Currently, only Rabgay is in custody and will be in remand until the February 5, after which we will post bail.
The seller demanded payment in cash for the land, which is legal and commonly practiced for various other capital assets as well in India. Since the Karmae Garchen Trust did not have such cash on hand, cash donations in Indian rupees were gathered from donations made during the Kagyu Monlam in Bodh Gaya, and delivered to Delhi by the Karmapa Office of Administration.