NEW DELHI – Indian authorities have dropped charges against Tibetan Buddhism's third most important leader involving $1.35 million in cash discovered at his monastery in northern India.
Police had seized the money — found in some two dozen currencies including a large sum of Chinese yuan — from the Karmapa's headquarters outside Dharmsala, where the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government-in-exile are based.
On a recommendation from prosecutors, however, a judicial magistrate on Monday "decided to delete his name" from the charge sheet listing nine other suspects, Assistant Public Prosecutor Ram Swaroop Sharma said.
The next hearing is set for Aug. 4, and the defendants could face up to 10 years if convicted.
The Karmapa's office said it was relieved. It has said the money was from donations from his followers, who come from around the world, and was mishandled by staff unaware of Indian laws on undeclared cash. They said the Karmapa spent his time only in religious teaching and had no involvement in the trust.
"We have maintained all along that the allegations against His Holiness were baseless," the office's deputy general secretary Karma Chungyalpa said in a statement, adding that great spiritual masters were not involved in financial administration and money matters.
The Karmapa himself thanked the Indian government for giving him and thousands of Tibetans asylum, saying "India has been my home for almost half of my life."
Last year's raid on the Gyuto Monastery was unprecedented and particularly surprising since the Karmapa, Ugyen Thinley Dorje, is revered by Tibetans and Buddhists. India has gone to great lengths to provide asylum to Buddhist leaders who have fled Tibet, including the Dalai Lama.
The 27-year-old monk is seen as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama as the head of the Tibetan freedom movement in exile. He left Tibet in 2000, and has since been living at the monastery in Sidhbari, just outside Dharmsala where the Dalai Lama has been based since fleeing the Himalayan region in 1959.
China's government reviles the Dalai Lama, accusing him of pushing for independence for Tibet and inciting a spate of self-immolations among protesters there.