Delhi casts spy doubt after ‘haul of crores’

The Telegraph

Ugyen Trinley Dorje

Jan. 28: New Delhi today said Ugyen Trinley Dorje was no Karmapa and could be questioned by security agencies following the seizure of at least Rs 6 crore in Indian and foreign currencies from his Dharamsala home.

The unaccounted cash, which includes at least 11 lakh Chinese yuans (worth Rs 77 lakh), has buttressed suspicion that Dorje is a Chinese spy and had planned to build a network of China-friendly Tibetan institutions across the Himalayan region.

A highly placed government official said that if any criminal offence was established, Dorje would be tried in a court of law like any other person.

Dorje, 25, had carried out his headline-making “escape” from Tibet to India in January 2000, aged 14. His followers claim he is the 17th Karmapa — head of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism — and the successor to the Dalai Lama.

But New Delhi has severely curbed his movements in recent years on suspicion that Beijing had stage-managed his “escape”.

“He is not a Karmapa. He is Ugyen Trinley Dorje,” the government official said. “It is a matter of serious concern that unaccounted money has been sourced to him. The law will take its course.”

Sources said the remarks were a signal to Dorje, his followers and Tibetans at large that India considered the young man a Chinese agent, and that there was no chance of his ever succeeding the Dalai Lama — who heads a different sect, anyway.

Yesterday, Himachal Pradesh police had raided Dorje’s home in a Dharamsala monastery, seized six suitcases of cash and arrested his close aide Shakti Lama. Sources said Dorje himself was unlikely to be detained immediately. Today, the Enforcement Directorate joined the probe.

Counting is still on. “The police have so far recovered Indian and foreign currencies worth Rs 6 crore in all. The foreign currency is from 25 countries, including China, Japan, America, Britain, Australia, Germany, Denmark, Singapore, Nepal, Canada and Thailand,” Himachal police chief D.S. Manhas said.

He added that Rs 30 lakh in Indian currency had been counted so far along with 11 lakh Chinese yuans and six lakh US dollars (worth Rs 2.7 crore). An intelligence source said the money trail so far seemed to lead to Hong Kong, suggesting a Chinese hand.

Some reports said the money was meant to buy a five-acre plot in Himachal’s Kangra district. Two earlier attempts by Dorje to buy land in Kangra, in 2007 and 2008, were scuttled after coming under the Enforcement Directorate’s scanner.

Dorje is alleged to have bought a large tract in Kangra’s Kotla village, near Dharamsala, in the name of Maya Devi, a small farmer from Kinnaur district. The police are investigating the source of the money and a case is pending in the Kangra deputy commissioner’s court. It is listed for hearing on March 23.

Himachal police sources said they knew of about 400 benami land deals by Tibetan refugees, and that cases had been registered in 263 instances.

Some sources said China may have wanted Dorje to do in the Indian Himalayas what Beijing had done in Nepal.

All along the India-Nepal border, the Chinese have opened 17 “China study centres” that ostensibly teach Chinese culture and language. But their main aim is suspected to be to establish a long-term Chinese influence in Nepal that could hurt Indian interests.

The sources said Beijing had sent Dorje to India to keep an eye on the Dalai Lama’s activities and project himself as his successor.

Beijing also wanted Dorje to take control of the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, the principal seat of the Kagyu sect, but that has not happened so far because of the emergence of a rival claimant to Karmapa status.

The “he is no Karmapa” remark suggests Dorje has lost this prospect too. India wants the rival, Thinley Thai Dorji, who is about the same age as Dorje, to take charge of the Sikkim monastery, which has more than 700 overseas branches and is influential both in the Indian Himalayan region and Tibet.

Himachal police chief Manhas said the money seized from Dorje’s home may have been routed through hawala from the Majnu Ka Tila area of Delhi, inhabited largely by Tibetan refugees.

“The money was reportedly drawn from the Majnoo Ka Tila branch of a private sector bank. We have arrested two people and are interrogating them,” he said.


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