DHARAMSALA: 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 from the monastery and people linked to Tibetan religious leader, the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje.
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.
The Karmapa himself was questioned by officials of the Himachal Pradesh police and other central government agencies over the recovery of currency and links to China.
The Karmapa, police sources said, was questioned late Friday night and Saturday at his monastery near the army base of Yol Cantt, 10 km from here.
"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 returned here from Dehradun Saturday, was raided by the investigating agencies to find if there was more to the nearly Rs.70 million (Rs.7 crore) money trail that they have chanced upon in the last three days.
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 has brought the controversy about the Karmapa's alleged links to China and his being a "Chinese agent" to the fore again. He had arrived mysteriously from his monastery near Lhasa in Tibet region January 2000.
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).
Officials of the IB and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) have been sent from Delhi Saturday to join the investigation.
The agencies also raided a local businessman K.P. Bhardwaj, who had claimed that the Rs.10 mn (Rs.1 crore) recovered from two of his men was a payment made by the Karmapa's trust to buy nearly 52 kanals (26,000 square yards) of land near here.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said Saturday he will take up the issue with the prime minister.
With the developments of the last two 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.
With the Gyuto Tantric University and Monastery, where the Karmapa has been residing in the last few years with his followers, swarming with police and officials of central agencies, the Karmapa has been confined to his rooms on the top floor 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.
As searches continued for the third day in offices located in the monastery premises, Chief Minister 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.
The Karmapa's office, in a statement said, they were "complying fully with the investigation".
"Our lineage and His Holiness the Karmapa enjoy the love, trust and faith of millions across the world. We have a rich history of public service made possible through financial dealings that are entirely transparent," the Karmapa Office of Administration said in the statement.
"We will certainly answer all questions that the press and the public have, but for now we respectfully request you to allow us to concentrate on complying fully with the investigation that is underway," it added.
The raids on the Karmapa's monastery near Sidhbari on the outskirts of this town were conducted after the police arrested two people at Mehatpur in Una district Jan 26 night and seized unaccounted Rs.1 crore from them. The money was in a plastic gunny bag and was being brought from Delhi.
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.
Chosang, who was an accountant in the monastery, was arrested Thursday and sent to police custody for nine days by an Una court .