Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders. (1)
- International Campaign for Tibet’s relationship with the Dalai Lama
- Lack of Accountability of Charities: Tibet Fund, International Campaign for Tibet
- How corruption and cronyism affects the international Tibetan Community
- Allegations made against the two Sikyong 2016 Candidates
- Office of Tibet’s $1.7 million office
- Sikyong Sangay’s mortgage payment
- Where does all the money go: Dalai Lama’s disappearing treasure, CTA’s hidden spending
- Nepotism and the Dalai Lama
- The 1989 Taiwan Scandal
- Cronyism in the exile community
- Corruption, Cronyism and Cults
- Corruption, Cronyism and Children
International Campaign for Tibet’s relationship with the Dalai Lama
Huffington Post has published an article on behalf of Matteo Mecacci, President International Campaign for Tibet, that attempts to underplay the Dalai Lama’s recent comments about refugees.
‘The publication of an interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the German media has led to some sensational headlines derived from an interview that included questions on the refugee crisis in Europe.These representations, focusing on the Dalai Lama apparently warning against ‘Arab domination’ and Europe taking in ‘too many’ migrants are ultimately inconsistent with the well-known and compassionate approach of the Dalai Lama, who has been a refugee himself for more than half a century, and the longer-term perspective he seeks to convey.’ (70)
The obvious vagueness of this article lies in the fact there is no denial that the Dalai Lama did actually say the following: ‘Agence France-Presse has reported that the leader of Tibetan Buddhism said: “When we look at the face of each refugee, but especially those of the children and women, we feel their suffering, and a human being who has a better situation in life has the responsibility to help them. “But on the other hand, there are too many at the moment… Europe, Germany in particular, cannot become an Arab country, Germany is Germany”. “There are so many that in practice it becomes difficult.” The Dalai Lama added that “from a moral point of view too, I think that the refugees should only be admitted temporarily”. “The goal should be that they return and help rebuild their countries.”’ (71)
His comments have caused some considerable backlash, with many seeing the similarities between these views and those of the right-wing: ‘His comments are almost the same as those made by Europe’s anti-Islamisation PEGIDA movement, and similar to comments made by groups like France’s Front National, Germany’s Alternative Fur Deutschland, and to a lesser extent, Britain’s UK Independence Party.’ (72)
The irony of these comments being published in Times of India, alongside the explanation that the comments were made in Dharamasala, ‘seat of the Tibetan-Government-in Exile in Northern India’ is surely obvious to all. ‘Thousands of Tibetans have fled their Himalayan homeland since China sent in troops in 1951, and many have settled in India.’ (73)
The International Campaign for Tibet have done similar ‘damage limitation’ work in the past, when the Dalai Lama has said or done things that have caused concern in the international community: such as when it was revealed, by the BBC, that the Dalai Lama had met secretly with Chinese Xiao Wunan. (See Gilded Cage Part Two Religion and Politics) ‘Xiao Wunan’s exact role when he was in government is unclear – “just call me a former high official”, he says. He also insists that he was not acting as a Chinese government envoy when he met the Dalai Lama. He says he was in India in his capacity as the executive vice chairman of an organisation called the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF). APECF is often described as being backed by the Chinese government and is involved in some pretty substantial influence building, including a multi-billion-dollar investment in developing a Buddhist site in Nepal.’ (74) At the time the meeting took place the International Campaign for Tibet did not announce the meeting, nor does it explain in the article finally published what the meeting was actually about. It does however try to allay concern, or possibly spin, the meeting by saying; ‘it is yet another indication of how Tibetan Buddhism can be a positive factor in bringing the Chinese and the Tibetan people closer.’ (75)
Similarly when the Dalai Lama made the following remarks that caused offence to women: ‘In Gender equality campaigners have criticised the Dalai Lama for his suggestion that any potential female successor to his role “must be very, very, attractive”. In an interview, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists said there was no reason why a future Dalai Lama could not be a woman – but she would have to be good looking otherwise she would be “not much use”. The 80-year-old’s remarks – which he made in an interview with the BBC reporter Clive Myrie, as he talked of succession, or reincarnation – provoked accusations of sexism that look set to plague the remainder of his tour of the UK, which began on 14 September.’ (76) Here again the International Campaign for Tibet found it necessary to explain what the Dalai Lama ‘really meant’: ‘Other members of the Buddhist community have said he was only joking and the comments were meant to be taken in a light-hearted way. The International Campaign for Tibet was among them, with Kate Saunders, its communications director, saying: “The Dalai Lama was saying it in a lighter vein – he was clearly teasing – when he was describing the possible looks of a future incarnation. He has consistently shown himself to be stressing on the importance of inner beauty and knowledge rather than external beauty.” However, some have argued that the Dalai Lama was given the chance to show he was joking. BBC interviewer Clive Myrie asked: “You’re joking, I’m assuming? Or you’re not joking?” The Dalai Lama then responded: “No, it’s true.”’ (77) (It is also not the only time the Dalai Lama has made such sexist comments, as can be seen in Gilded Cage Articles Part 10 –Gender Roles.)
On the matter of the Shugden Controversy the International Campaign for Tibet have followed the Dalai Lama’s lead and been extremely vocal in denigrating Shugden practitioners, despite the fact there are many Tibetan Shugden practitioners in Tibet and in-exile. ‘“The protesters are from an extremist religious group that is aligned with the political agenda of the Chinese government in Tibet to undermine the Dalai Lama and enforce allegiance to the Chinese Communist party,” said Kate Saunders, ICT communications director. “This systematic campaign against the Dalai Lama and deepening oppression threatens the very survival of Tibetan religion and cultural identity.” (78) Such comments are very much in-keeping with the Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Authority’s Shugden scapegoat campaign. (See Gilded Cage Articles Part 4) These claims are made despite the fact, as Reuters admit, there is no evidence for such claims: ‘Reuters has no independent evidence of direct Chinese financing of the protests’ (79) The interesting contrast between how exile Tibetans see the discrimination affecting their community, and how Kate Saunders describes it, was clearly illustrated on a Cambridge local news story. Tibetan Shugden practitioners describe how there is complete segregation on the Tibetan community, Kate Saunders’ response was that ‘”It is true that there were apparently some signs in the Tibetan communities.” (81) This denial of the segregation came despite the large amount of evidence documenting this. (See Part Four: Shugden Scapegoat) This speech was also undermined by the Dalai Lama openly admitting in a BBC TV interview that there was discrimination against Shugden practitioners, but this was apparently ‘their fault.’ (82) It should be of concern to the international community and donors that the Charity is openly discriminating against a large group of Tibetans on religious grounds.
If the ICT are going to represent the views of the Dalai Lama then surely they have to stand by all of his views and not attempt to minimise/spin/cover-up or even deny the Dalai Lama’s comments and actions that prove to be unpopular? As a charity, that is raising money to support Tibetan refugees, the Dalai Lama’s recent comments were undoubtedly not at all helpful to the ICT, but does this give them the right to use a platform, like the Huffington Post, to try and distance him and them from the impact of the comments? They appear to be cherry picking, they stand with his religious discrimination against Shugden practitioners but attempt to minimise his discriminatory comments towards women. They use the international media to make allegations against other Buddhist traditions receiving funding from the Chinese government, but when the Dalai Lama meets with high ranking Chinese officials, possibly offering large amount of funds, they describe this as; ‘another indication of how Tibetan Buddhism can be a positive factor in bringing the Chinese and the Tibetan people closer.’ They state; ‘It is ludicrous and clearly out of context to assert that the Dalai Lama would seriously state that Germany is at risk of becoming ‘Arab’ as a result of the refugee crisis.’ When he has been quoted in the international papers as having said exactly this; ‘The Dalai Lama says Europe risks losing its identity by taking in too many migrants and warned: ‘Germany cannot become an Arab country.'(80) Are the ICT accusing the world’s media of lying? Should we come to the ICT representatives to ‘translate’ all of the Dalai Lama’s words into meanings that are more palatable to the majority ie the donors?
In the background to this there are concerns around how the ICT are allocating the funds they have raised (See below for further information) with charity watchdogs judging them as not meeting standards. It would be advisable that the trustees of this charity and the international community ask the charity two things:
- How are they allocating funds?
- Whose views and needs they are the International Campaign for Tibet really representing; those of the Tibetan people, or the political strategies of the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Authority?
Lack of Accountability of Charities
The equivalent of many millions of dollars have been raised over the years by citizens in the West keen to help Tibetans. Funders donate to help Tibetans, both in Tibet; where evidence of appalling human rights violations and oppression have been the cause of great concern to all; and to support the Tibetans in exile, forced to leave their homeland and struggle to build new lives from scratch. It would be difficult to think of a worthier cause for donating to charity and the Dalai Lama has been an active ambassador, travelling internationally, for many years, to draw attention to this cause. This effort can only be commended and there is no doubt that millions of Tibetans have benefitted from the money raised in the many different projects that have been set up in Tibet and in the exile community.
However, when investigating these charitable organisations questions have to be raised about how much money is raised and what percentage of this money actually finds its way to help the Tibetans?
The questions that really need to be investigated are:
1. Why are the charities set up in the Dalai Lama’s name showing poor levels of accountability and lack of transparency in the use of the money raised?
2. What proportion of the money raised by charities associated with the Dalai Lama goes to help Tibetans and how much of it is used in projects that help Westerners?
3. To what extent are the charities benefitting the ‘friends’ of the Dalai Lama who are able to use the Dalai Lama brand to raise multiple millions of pounds?
This article looks at some areas of concern in these charitable organisations but really there is need for a much more thorough investigation.
Charity Projects in the West
Most people would assume that any money raised by a charity affiliated to the Dalai Lama would automatically go straight to projects directly supporting Tibetans but this is quite simply not the case. Two of these charities, The Foundation for Universal Responsibility (44) and The Dalai Lama foundation (45) manage large projects many of which are aimed at Westerners. Details of these projects are available on their websites, but include; ‘a Bay Area-based Center for Peace, will be a physical space designed to educate, inspire and encourage action among the next generation of peacemakers throughout the world.’ while another project; ‘facilitated the participation of eminent scholars, scientists and religious leaders in the ‘Mind and Life XVIII: Attention, Memory and the Mind’ organized in Dharamsala.’ The Dalai Lama justifies this use of funds being spent on projects in the West in his ‘Use of the Nobel Peace Prize Money (46); ‘I have deliberately added “Tibetan” to the foundation’s name so that this will be one of the first truly Tibetan foundations established to act from the heart of the Tibetan people to do good and helpful things not only for their own country but for people throughout the world. Old Tibet was a bit too isolated. The future Tibet will be active to help those in need throughout the world, especially using our expertise in psychological, spiritual, and philosophical matters.’ He goes on to admit, ‘ Of course, many individuals, foundations and governments are already working in these areas, and many more will surely do so as the planetary crisis becomes more obvious and intense.’ Apparently he feels the Tibetan contribution will be special and different because of the ‘combination of spirituality and practicality,’ and that ‘we hope to be able to show what a free Tibet can give to the world when its time has come.’
These high minded principles and aspirations sound good on paper but is it appropriate to be spending money on projects like these, in the West, when Tibetans continue to struggle against oppression in Tibet and the unemployment levels and poverty in the exile community are remarkably high? The International Campaign for Tibet readily admits that Tibetans in Tibet continue to suffer economic hardship; ‘China’s economic policies in Tibet are based on a political agenda that fails to consider Tibetan needs, views, and livelihoods. Tibetan views of what development in Tibet should look like are not solicited, as the PRC pushes forward with its ‘Western Development Strategy’, integrating Tibetan areas into the larger Chinese market, regardless of Tibetan participation. This results in either Tibetans being resettled off their lands, separated from their traditional livelihoods or otherwise marginalized by China’s economic policies.’ (47) Part Nine of the Gilded Cage Articles, Suppression of Labour, explains in detail how the exile Tibetan community is struggling with high levels of unemployment which ‘has become a major impediment for creating economically self-reliant community in Exile.’ The high levels of unemployment, especially among the young, has led to further social problems of drug addiction, vulnerability and lack of identity and confidence. (48) When so many Tibetans are suffering such hardship, both inside and outside of Tibet is it appropriate for the Dalai Lama to be encouraging and supporting charities to spend millions of dollars in the West on projects that support Western ‘entrepreneurs,’ scholars, website designers and authors? Are Tibetans themselves aware of the amount being spent on these projects and the salaries of those ‘friends’ of the Dalai Lama who are running these charities and projects? Millions of dollars would be spent on buying merchandise for fundraising events, is this merchandise sourced from Tibetan factories, what is the ratio of Tibetan to Westerner employed by the charities, is there an agreement on what proportion of the charities’ money stays in the West, if so where is this information published? Given a choice surely Tibetans would prefer that all the money raised by charities, using the Dalai Lama’s name and the tragic history of Tibetans to raise funds, went on projects directly funding Tibetans, many of whom remain trapped in poverty?
Lack of Accountability of Charities
International Campaign for Tibet
An article published on the Rangzen and Washington Time’s website asks similar questions about the lack of accountability of the International Campaign for Tibet. (34) The charity collects millions of dollars from Western supporters, it spends most of this on overheads, including fat cat salaries, and achieves very little: ‘ICT’s annual operating budget is $3.6 million.’
The current report on the International Campaign for Tibet on the Charity Navigator website shows there has been a small improvement in the way the Charity spends the donations it receives but serious concerns still remain.
The most significant concern is the fact the Charity have not returned their 2015 Annual and Financial report yet. In September 2016 the Charity’s website still only has the 2014 financial report uploaded.
The Charity ‘watchdog’ Charity Navigator’s assessment of the ICT’s finances contains the statement: ‘This rating was published 06/01/2016 and includes data from FY2014, the most recent 990 received at that time.’ On their website Charity Navigator explains: ‘charities are given 135 days following the end of their fiscal year to prepare and file their Form 990. Beyond that time limit, many charities request extensions, including an additional four-month time limit, which are automatically approved by the IRS. As a result, organizations often file their 990 eight to ten months after their fiscal year ends– a lifetime in financial sectors.’ Charity Navigator ‘rating was published 12/22/2015 using data for FY2014, the most recent 990 received at that time.
Based on the 2014 report it is possible to see there is room for improvement in how this well-established charity handles it finances.
The previous ICT’s annual report and Charity Navigator revealed that it spent most of each dollar on overheads, including 44 percent for fundraising. (35)
There is some improvement on the previous year but Charity Navigator still only allocated two stars to the charity for their financial performance, which means: ‘Meets or nearly meets industry standards but underperforms most charities in its cause.’
In 2014, BBB Wise Giving alliance declared the charity did not meet their required standards because the chair of the board is directly compensated. (37) Also because the ICT did not include ‘Total expenses for each program in the same categories that appear in the organization’s financial statements.’
‘The $1.6 million spent on fundraising each year reflects a breathtaking level of inefficiency. While ICT’s 2014 financial statements have not been released, Mr. Mecacci’s annual salary is alleged to be $150,000. Based on ICT’s 2013 tax filing, Mr. Mecacci earned $16,800 for less than one month’s work in December 2013, and ICT spent $640,000 on just one direct mail company.’ The charity appears to be using the tragic Tibetan situation to rake in money, without having any clear direction or strategies; perhaps not surprising when the head of the ICT board is Richard Gere, and no one has any idea why Matteo Mecacci, a former Italian parliamentarian, was appointed as President. Surely there are enough well educated Tibetans available to run the charity without the need to employ an American Hollywood actor and an Italian spin doctor? Just giving one Tibetan Mr. Mecacci’s salary would be helping the Tibetan cause more than they currently are. One can only assume that there is cronyism at work here too. ‘Many Tibet support groups are concerned that ICT has no clear purpose other than self-preservation, raising funds to pay for trips to Asia, comfortable salaries and maintenance of an elegant townhouse in Dupont Circle officially assessed to be worth $2.7 million. Many activists groups have done far more on far less, but ICT remains the top-funded Tibet organization in America.’
‘At this late date, ICT must make a better case for funding than Mr. Mecacci’s breathless and exclamatory message: “You give me hope about Tibet. More important, you give hope to Tibetans for a better future!” Promoting comforting stereotypes of cheerful-but-needy Tibetan refugees is a disservice to the Tibetan people.'(34)
Questionable use of the Money raised
The Dalai Lama Foundation was set up to ‘to support the development of our shared global capacity for ethics and peace, based on a non-dogmatic ethic of compassion,’ (37) and makes no secret of the fact it is a collection of ‘friends and students who have known and worked with him (The Dalai Lama) for many years.’ The Foundation is involved in fundraising for a number of projects and as ‘friends’ of the Dalai Lama they can make good use of his name and connections to promote their fundraising campaigns.
An example of the ability of the Foundation to pull in huge sums of money, using the Dalai Lama’s name and connections, is ‘The Living History Experience’ fundraising campaign. In August 2014 an Article in The Hollywood Reporter explained that ‘In honor of the 14th Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, the Dalai Lama Foundation — a nonprofit group focused on peace and ethics education worldwide — will use Indiegogo to fund the multimedia, interactive, online experience to chronicle the life and accomplishments of the Nobel Peace Prize winner.. It’s set to launch in mid-2015.’ (38)
It seems the fundraising campaign was a huge success raising $126,429 in only 2 months. ‘Not only did it receive over $55,000 during its first week, two backers gave major contributions of $20,000 and $30,000.’ (39)
The campaign was so successful in fact that it prompted Beth Kanter, Author and nonprofit strategist, to interview the organiser of the fundraising campaign, Brian Rusch, for her blog. (40) Brian was only to happy to share some of the factors enabling the success of the campaign:
- Fundraising platforms work on a principle of giving ‘perks’ in return for donations. This campaign had as its ‘perks’ merchandise related to the Dalai Lama; including posters, note books, books and so forth. All of these ‘perks’ were donated; “Our perks were donated by the various artists, companies and other sponsors. We focused heavily on digital perks at the lower levels of sponsorship as they are easiest to fulfill and at the higher levels, most of our partners shipped the perks directly to the donors.”
- The campaign was able to call on a network of volunteers, quite possibly Dalai Lama followers, who offered support with producing the range of media needed to spread the message far and wide.
- ‘They strategically expanded their campaign team with champions who were familiar with to the foundation and could leverage their online networks to reach an audience that was not in their typical donor base. The champions included people well-known and aligned to the Dalai Lama Foundation’s mission such as; Jack Kornfield – Buddhist teacher and author, Thupten Jinpa – His Holiness’ English translator, Amanda Wyss – actress and Tenzin Tethong – DLF founder and first prime minister of Tibetan Government in Exile
- The campaign made good use of the Dalai Lama’s connections to spread the publicity across all channels; ‘They reached out to all of the Dalai Lama related organizations, other Nobel laureates, Tibetan organizations, and our board members.’
- The Dalai Lama himself was too busy to contribute but fully endorsed the campaign with a message on the website; ‘“I am happy to endorse and lend my name to this effort because it promises to try to put into action many of the ideas for peace that I support.” Brian Rusch sees this endorsement as being pivotal to the campaign; “Of course, we had the Dalai Lama name associated with the project and many images to use to promote, so it definitely still helps. We also involved Thupten Jinpa and Tenzin Tethong, both of them whom gave us the legitimacy we needed within the Tibetan and Buddhist communities.”
Brian Rusch and indiegogo should be congratulated on what is a very successful fundraising campaign but is it morally correct to use the reputation and connections of a Buddhist spiritual leader in this way? Terms used such as; “psychology,” “algorithm,” “pre-launch donation commitments” and “match funding” seem inappropriate when they are being used on people who are giving because they believe it is the wish of their spiritual guide to do so. The Dalai Lama Foundation, on their own website, refer to the ‘moral force’ of the Dalai Lama; indeed many see him as a living Buddha and would never question his advice or suggestions, should such ‘moral force’ be put behind fundraising campaigns? All of this corporate style fundraising is a long way from the traditional image of a monk holding a simple begging bowl.
So whilst the ways in which the campaign was able to successfully fundraise, using the Dalai Lama’s celebrity status and network of connections is clear, what is less clear is what exactly the large sum of money raised will be spent on. The website gives a long and expensive sounding list of outcomes: (41)
The Living History will include:
- A website portal that brings the experience of the Dalai Lama directly to you, where ever you are located.
- A chronological presentation of the major events in the Dalai Lama’s extraordinary life.
- An interactive map showing the many places around the world that the Dalai Lama has visited and spread his message of peace.
- A searchable data base of rarely seen videos and photos of the Dalai Lama, as well as his speeches, talks and writings.
- Success stories of people, groups and organizations that were inspired by the Dalai Lama.
- A community where users can share stories, as well as post photos and videos through their social media.
This all sounds very impressive however on closer examination surely all we are looking at here is a website, a complex website granted, but would such a website cost over $125,000 to produce? That amount is the salary of an expensive web designer for a whole year, a skilled web designer could easily do such work in a matter of a few months, possibly even weeks. The pie graph kindly produced on the website does not make the allocation of the funds any clearer. It has sections such as, ‘Miscellaneous’ and vague titles such as ‘Content Curation,’ ‘Content creation,’ and ‘Design,’ that surely all mean the same thing, and if they are not part of the 34% of ‘Site Production’ then what is? The website even says that if extra money is raised it will help to, ‘enhance the interactive content, and produce an even more exciting and complete experience,’ suggesting that even $125,000 would not be enough to produce the very best website there could be!
If this particular project is not enough of a concern the Dalai Lama Foundation is happy to announce that the ‘Living History Project’ is only the beginning of what is a three stage project under the umbrella of ‘The Dalai Lama Centre for Peace.’ The next stage; ‘The Incubator For GOOD, is a program that will enable start up nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurs aligned with the Dalai Lama’s messages of peace and compassion, to collaborate, learn critical skills, meet partners and funders, and further develop their organizations.’ The final stage is a Bay Area-based Center for Peace, will be a physical space designed to educate, inspire and encourage action among the next generation of peacemakers throughout the world. The space is meant to be a flexible space that includes event space, a hub workspace for visiting Incubator for GOOD entrepreneurs, community space for senior programs, children’s programs, etc. Additionally, an exhibition space will be created to house a permanent exhibit based on the Living History project as well as traveling exhibits to promote peace.’ This is a very ambitious project, that will no doubt require hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to set up and run, if the cost of just one website is anything to go on. Such a long term project would keep the salaried coming for many years for the people linked to the Dalai Lama Foundation, ‘his friends and students.’
Before the complex fundraising campaign begins for this project it would perhaps be wise if the two key questions raised here are answered: ‘Where does the money actually go’ and ‘is it morally correct to use a spiritual leader to endorse such campaigns?’ It seems that the Dalai Lama Foundation will be only too happy to help anyone wishing to inquire further into their activities and the use of their income, as one of their guiding principles is; ‘We operate in an honest and transparent manner. We follow best practices to make financial operations transparent. We practice honesty in all communications.’ (42)
The Tibet Fund had gone up to a Four Star rating on the Charity Navigator website. The financial reports seem to illustrate that most of their money is spent in the exile Tibetan communities and not on sophisticated projects in the West. However it has not been without its scandal and notably the amount of money spent on Management Services has more than doubled from the 2014 to the 2015 Financial report.
On 4 April 2015 an article was published on http://www.tibetsun.com explaining how Rinchen Dharlo, Director of Tibet Fund, has avoided being interviewed about the charity for over a year. (24)
The Tibet Fund was founded in 1981. According to their website: ‘The Tibet Fund’s mission is to preserve the distinct cultural and national identity of the Tibetan people. Since 1981, under the patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Tibet Fund has been the primary funding organisation for health care, education, refugee rehabilitation, religious and cultural preservation, elder care and community and economic development programmes serving more than 140,000 Tibetan refugees living in India, Nepal and Bhutan. Their considerable funding, the equivalent of many millions of American dollars a year, comes from fundraising abroad: ‘The Tibet Fund is grateful for the generosity of its many dedicated friends around the world. I would like to express our heartfelt appreciation to the U.S. Congress and Administration, which have lent significant support.’ (25)
Michael Backman in his book ‘The Asian Insider: Unconventional Wisdom for Asian Business,’ describes an incident relating to allegations of corruption in the Tibet Fund in 2003: ‘If rumour is to be believed, the government –in –exile is not free from factionalism and corruption. The Tibet Fund itself was accused of being subject to corruption, leading to Samdhong Rinpoche, the exiles’ prime minister, walking out of the government-in-exile’s assembly in September 2003. He did not return until the accusations were withdrawn. I have spoken with refugee Tibetans in Nepal who claim that they are constantly asked to make donations to this or that Tibetan cause. Huge sums are raised, middlemen abound and there is little accountability.’(27)
Other outspoken allegations are made anonymously on the http://www.phayul.com website. (Phayul.com (Fatherland in Tibetan) is a pro-Tibetan independence website that publishes news and opinion about Tibet and Tibet-in-exile. Created in 2001 by Tibetan exiles in India, it is published in the English language from New Delhi. (28))
‘I totally agree that we should go after Rinchen Dharlo. He has got to be the biggest snake alive. First of all, he shouldn’t have ever been appointmented as the Representative of His Holiness in New York. What a mistake. When he finally got fired from that post, again for corruption, nepotism, and favoring his relatives and friends in the 1,000 Tibetan Green Card project, it was too late and after much harm was already done. After a thorough investigation, it was long overdue after a clear finding of his misdeeds. Now, here is Dharlo again helping steal Tibetan money in the Bloomington center for his own personal gain. How is this snake allowed to do this again? Moreover, how the hell was he ever allowed to be involved with the Tibet House? He has a knack of dupping people like Richard Gere and others into this things. Someone should do a careful check on the financial books on the Tibet House and you will undoubtedly find financial corruption if not irregularites with the funds donated there. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile, Tibetan leaders and Tibetan related support and organizational groups should NEVER allow a deciteful, corrupt and self-serving snake like Rinchen Dharlo to ever be allowed be associated with anything Tibetan. Dharlo is a real first class slime-ball. What an embarrassment to the Tibetan people and Tibetan race. He belongs in jail with the rest of criminals in the world.’ (29)
Because this is a public charity it would not be an unreasonable demand that there is a, ‘careful check in the financial books of Tibet House,’ even if it is simply to serve the purpose of refuting such strong allegations of corruption. As the reporter explains to Rinchen Dharlo in emails to him, he has a responsibility to the public to answer questions about the charity and allay people’s fears about the spending of charitable funds: ‘You said that people have been spreading misinformation about you and your works because of which you didn’t want to do the interview. The very purpose of this interview is to inform the public of the realities, and therefore, the interview is an opportunity for you to respond to the misinformations. The Tibet Fund is a service to the Tibetan people and since you have been at the helm of the organisation, I feel that it’s your responsibility to answer questions related to that post and office. Declining to answer the questions is denying the information as well as the rights of the Tibetan people. I haven’t asked any personal questions, but public interest and related to the Tibet Fund.’ (24)
Since the article was posted by Tibet Sun several comments have been added to the page by Tibetans in Exile concerned about Dharlo’s silence. Some are concerned about Dharlo’s salary as it was shown on on the 2013 Tax Return: ‘If you look at the 2013 tax returns, Rinchen Dharlo’s salary is almost $83,000 plus $13,000 compensation for President position and Lobsang Nyendak’s salary was only $25,000 + $520 compensation for Executive Directorposition. Why is there such a huge salary difference? It doesn’t make any sense. Plus Tibet Fund is a nonprofitorganization and even if under Private Office of HH, he should not be [getting] so much.’
‘Tibetans are surviving on donations and supports from the Tibet supporters, and taking advantage by collecting huge sums as salary is unthinkable and unethical. Every time they are in the public, they show the best of their face, while they collect unreasonable salaries which could be used to pay off the salary in CTA for long period of time.’Not only does it seem to be a high salary for someone employed by a charity, and in comparison to others, but it was also a 30% rise on the year before. ‘Looking at the tax filings for 2012 and 2013, his salary increased from $64k to $82k. That’s an increase in salary by about 30%. That’s a huge pay increase. Who decides those pay increases? and on what basis?’ Others are more interested in the Dharlo’s appointment, whether it was by the CTA or whether directly appointed by the Dalai Lama. ‘The bigger problem that has not been raised is who appoints these people? Is there a process that selects the best candidate? Are these people appointed by CTA or is it the Private Office of His Holiness?If they have been appointed by CTA then Rinchen Dharlo or Lodi Gyari have an obligation to answer to the people … but if they have been appointed by His Holiness Private Office then the outrage should be directed towards that office.’ (24)
If the CTA really want to run the exile community on democratic lines they should insist that their public servants are held accountable. This means that they are not allowed to walk out of public debates because they do not like what is being said, nor should they be allowed to ignore reasonable questions from the world’s media.
How corruption and cronyism affects the international Tibetan Community
It is very difficult to uncover evidence of ‘rampant cronyism and corruption’ in a society filled with rampant cronyism and corruption, simply because corrupt people will go to any lengths to protect their position. In the other Gilded Cage articles there is clear evidence of some of the tactics used by the Dalai Lama and CTA to protect their theocratic dictatorship, including; intimidation, lies, exploitation of Tibetan Nationalism, manipulation of people’s religious beliefs, use of scapegoats and use of foreign aid to control the media. Until recently there was little evidence available to expose the corruption within the exile community. However, as Tibetans move to countries outside of the exile community in India and become financially independent of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), there are more people willing to share stories of corruption. With the growth of social media these Tibetans can share their information anonymously on Facebook and Twitter. Also, the powerful International Shugden Community’s social media campaign, set up to bring an end to the Dalai Lama and CTA’s discrimination against Shugden practitioners, has led to information about corruption, discrimination, nepotism and cronyism, within the exile community, being shared worldwide through Twitter.
This aim of this article is to shine a light on some of the allegations of corruption and cronyism that are now surfacing. Many of these allegations need further investigation and the article will be updated as new evidence is uncovered. It is to be hoped that articles like this; along with the worldwide spread of information using social media and research by the international media; will result in the intricate, ugly tapestry of corruption, nepotism and cronyism in the exile community being exposed.
Allegations made against the two Sikyong 2016 Candidates
On March 16th of this year the speaker of the Tibetan parliament, Penpa Tsering, threatened to resign due to allegations made by Tenpa Yangphel, a Member of Parliament, who alleged there were people in the parliament ‘who indulge in corruption, personalization of public property and murder.’ Penpa Tsering demanded that the allegations were withdrawn, instead Yangphel went on to give more details, saying his insinuations were ‘directed at Dawa Tsering, MP from U-Tsang and founder of Yongling Kindergarten in Mcleod Ganj for privatization of public property, Kirti Dolkar Lhamo, former MP from Domey, who resigned on corruption charges and Speaker Penpa Tsering for murder.’ (7)
The third allegation made by Yangphel was one of murder, directed towards the Speaker, Penpa Tsering: ‘Third one is people who indulge in murder. It happened in our Tibetan community recently in Majnukatilla, Delhi. It’s still fresh in our memory. Similarly, it can be said that such people are also in this Parliament.’ (7) ‘Penpa Tsering challenged him to accuse him outside the House, outside the legal protection of speech in Parliament. According to the House rules, proceedings within the House can not be used in legal action. Yarphel was referring to an incident in 2003 when Tsering was voted out from becoming a minister. Then Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche had proposed to make him a minister, and member Sonam Topgyal representing Kham province accused Tsering of being a murderer. (65) The certainty with which Yangphel speaks, in an official capacity, suggests that it is just a matter of time before more evidence about this matter comes into the public arena.
The alleged murder is also referred to in a recent Tibet Sun article, ‘Those who are against Penpa Tsering have accused him of killing a former lama, whose wife he later lived with for a few years. He has denied the charge and has challenged anyone to prove him guilty.’ (63)
Human Trafficking: Organised Crime in the Exile-Tibetan Community
‘The brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet has created countless hardships for the Tibetan people, with so many looking to the West for safety and a new life outside India and Nepal. Many Tibetans have obtained western passports legally, but many more have in desperation turned to human traffickers and smugglers who make large amounts of cash with human trafficking rings. Starting in 2012, investigative reporters unearthed a well known and well organized Tibetan trafficking ring based in the United States and India. The activities of this particular Tibetan organized crime ring are widely known to the general public, making it easier for reporters to make connections and gather further information as to how it functions, and who has been involved.
Speaker Penpa Tsering and Thinley Kalsang
In depth and conclusive reporting on human trafficking within Tibetan society is difficult, as the victims frequently fear retaliation or public shaming for having come forward in the media. Despite the risks, using confidential sources, reporters gained further insight into the machinations of the Tibetan political underworld and its connections to criminal activity.
In November of 2012, several sources testified that Thinley Kalsang, a wealthy Tibetan socialite and elected member of the NY/NJ Tibetan Community Association, was using his finances, social influence, and political connections via South India, to support Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament and present Sikyong candidate, Penpa Tsering. There are serious questions about Speaker Penpa Tsering’s influence on the internal politics of the New York based Tibetan community, and eventually the internal disintegration of Tibetan Youth Congress of NY/NJ…
The most important source reporters spoke with provided information about the connection with Penpa Tsering and Thinley Kalsang, and had detailed information about Penpa’s delegations arriving in the United States, using it as cover for the human trafficking ring. ‘Delegates’ posing as Ministers of the Tibetan Parliament were taken to the United States, dropped of at JFK or LaGuardia airport and then directed to Kalsang’s Outreach Center where they could later be provided false documents and ‘legal consultation. In the past 15 years Tibetans have had great difficulty obtaining visas from the US Embassy in India and Nepal. But Penpa Tsering is always able to obtain visas because he is in an official with the Tibetan Government in Exile, and therefore he can get US visitor visas ‘delegations’ to the US easily. Tsering has travelled at least twice with such groups to New York. U.S. Law Enforcement agencies were also informed (by several victims) of this in 2014 and began a slow but lengthy investigation. While the current criminal investigation is still ongoing, several victims of this trafficking ring have refused to come forward due to Kalsang’s recent diagnosis of cancer and potential heart surgery.’ (64)
Sikyong Sangay’s mortgage payment
In May 2014 Mila Rangzen, in his article ‘CTA on the Highway to Autocracy,’ (30) went into some detail about the allegation made in a parliamentary session against Sikyong Lobsang Sangay: That he had a quarter of million dollars mortgage payment made on his home loan by a mysterious benefactor, on the eve of his taking up his position in the exile Tibetan parliament.
‘Tibetan people shall lose faith in CTA if our highest offices are excused from scrutiny. Sikyong should be setting the example of transparency. The Dalai Lama rightly said that a lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity. On the matter of the Sikyong’s mortgage payment issue, the question is not how but who paid off 90% of his house loan just before his inauguration in August 2011. I salute parliamentarian Dawa Phunkyi for raising this issue in the last parliamentary session. Grilling the cabinet is one of your jobs when there is glaring discrepancy in their conduct, integrity, performance or lack of transparency. At this point, the CCP’s hand is hard to confirm but we will never know the truth until Sikyong comes clean on this. Being a public figure of the highest office, he must bare his financial secrets to the public. And the time is now! In all parliamentary systems, candidates must disclose all of their financial assets. So the Siykong should disclose how he was able to procure a quarter million dollars to pay his mortage just before he took office. The Tibetan public has the right to know who is twisting the arms of the Sikyong office behind the screen. There are at least 2000 Tibetans who have been living in US for more than 20 years and making more than $50,000 annually and yet majority of them don’t own a house or have not been able to clear the mortgage. Therefore, Sikyong’s claim in the parliament session that he spent 16 years in US and it was easy to payoff the mortgage does not hold much water. Fact is he spent the first part of his time in US as a student with no personal income. The Sikyong who was only a junior research assistant at Harvard University and was making less than $50,000 annually which is not at all a lot of money considering the daily expenses in dollars, not rupees. The fact that he got the inexpensive $227,000 house on mortgage in 2007 that is 12 years after he first stepped in to US speaks volume of the sheer difficulty of owning a house in a one-week time frame. The fact that his mortgage was cleared a week before he officially became Sikyong with the payment of just $1 raises more flags than one can imagine. I wish him prosperity but he cannot, as a responsible Sikyong, brush aside this genuine public concern.’
Since this article was published an article in Tibet Sun claims that Sangay has successfully explained away this accusation regarding his mortgage, ‘The uproar about the source of money to purchase his house in Boston with a lump sum payment has been discussed before. But it has since died down perhaps due to clear and proper explanation that his instalments for the purchase of the house from his Harvard salary ended after his decision to join the Kalon Tripa race, and that he had paid the remaining mortgage from the savings of himself and his wife.’ (63)
The assertion by Sangay that his mortgage was paid off by his savings leads to two further questions:
- Why did he take such a long time to try and refute allegations that have been circulating about him for many years?
- Was the necessary paperwork produced to substantiate his claim? It would be easy enough to produce bank statements to clarify the situation. The Tibetan exile community deserve to have this matter cleared up once and for all, without transparency they could be voting in a corrupt official for another 5 years.
Sangay and the Lobbying firm
The reference to being ‘in bed with Benjamin Wey’ refers to the fact ‘Sangay also found sufficient financial resources to sideline ICT and hire Sconset Strategies, a Washington lobbying firm whose biggest client is Benjamin Wey, the Chinese born multi-millionaire. When Sangay hired Sconset Strategies in 2011, some questioned that small lobbying firm’s ability to honestly and effectively represent the interests of the Tibetan people, when its top client of long standing is Benjamin Wey, an avowed Chinese nationalist who aggressively pushes the financial interests of the Chinese Communist Party. Sconset Strategies’ website lists its few other clients, which include Aristeia Capital, a hedge fund owned by the husband of one of Lobsang Sangay’s top supporters.’
Shortly after Moynihan’s article was published in the Washington Times her letter, ‘To the Editors of the Washington Times’ was published on http://www.rangzen.net (51) In response to my op-ed “Tibet and China at the same Washington Lobbyist” published July 10, 2015, Mr. Kaydor Aukatsang, Office of Tibet representative, has written to The Washington Times on August 3, 2015, claiming that I made “false allegations.” Mr. Aukatsang has not shown any facts in my op-ed to be false; he merely offers differing opinions or attempted explanations. As my father Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. Mr. Aukatsang writes that the lobbying firm Sconset Strategies’ scope of work for the Office of Tibet was “limited to facilitating a couple of meetings on Capitol Hill in July 2011 and this service was provided pro-bono.” Both of these claims are inaccurate, according to documents from the U.S. Senate and the Center for Responsive Politics. Far from being limited to “a couple of meetings”, Sconset’s work for the Office of Tibet spanned advocacy on “[f]oreign Aid, self immolations, immigration policy.” And rather than being pro bono, the Office of Tibet appears to have paid Sconset at least USD 20,000. Mr. Aukatsang’s easily disprovable statements on Sconset can only call into question his credibility on other matters as well.’
Office of Tibet’s $1.7 million office
Following the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s recent visit to USA Maura Moynihan, in an article in the Washington Times, ‘Why the Silence from Tibet Office, Washington?’, has questioned why the Office of Tibet in Washington was silent during the visit, with no attempt by them to protest against China’s human rights violations in Tibet. Moynihan goes on to suggest that the silence could be due to some of the unexplained activity by Lobsang Sangay and the Office of Tibet . (49)
Earlier in the year, in an article in the Washington Times in July 2015, Moynihan questions Sangay’s links with China and also how millions of dollars of donated money are being spent: ‘The Office of Tibet now has a $1.7 million office around the corner from ICT’s $2.7 million townhouse near Dupont Circle, which begs the question: how is a penniless refugee community of 150,000 people scattered across India and Nepal served by all this fancy real estate in Washington? Who is the legitimate representative of the Tibetan people? The next time Lobsang Sangay heads to Capitol Hill, let’s hope someone pulls up his bio and asks this ambitious Tibetan politician what drives his rejection of democracy and embrace of Communist Chinese rule, how he explains being in bed with Benjamin Wey, and who paid for his mortgage and his spanking new Washington office.’ (50)
Moynihan is not alone in thinking the decision to buy a new office needed to be challenged; a blog site ‘A Journey of a Tibetan,’ shows that there are undoubtedly many others Tibetans who felt the decision was made undemocratically and most Tibetans are unclear as to who actually had the authority to make such a decision. (53)
The only answer offered for why it was considered necessary to purchase a $1.7 million office in Washington, when The Office of Tibet already had an office in New York, is given on the CTA website: ‘Representative Kaydor Aukatsang welcomed everyone and explained that the Office of Tibet moved to DC to help educate and build a strong community of friends and supporters.’ (52) One has to ask the question why, in the age of international phone networks, travel and internet communication, it is necessary to physically move an office to a particular area using funds originally donated to help the Tibetan refugees? This increases the irony of the statement that one of the core values that Tibet Office is meant to be promoting is to: ‘mobilize support for the education and cultural preservation of the Tibetan community.’ Maybe less ‘mobilizing’ and more hard cash spent on job opportunities and drug interventions (see Gilded Cage Articles Part 9: Suppression of Labour) , rather than expensive addresses and sophisticated social functions, would be appreciated by the Tibetan community.
Where does all the money go?
Lack of Accountability of the CTA and Dalai Lama
One question that has never been satisfactorily answered, by the Dalai Lama or the CTA, is where does all the money, equivalent to many millions of Dollars, that pours into the exile community go exactly? The community receives money through foreign aid grants, a vast range of charitable donations, marketing the Dalai Lama through public talks and visits, Western Buddhist Tourism and sales of Buddhist books and merchandise. Some of the money is accounted for but not all of it, particularly the personal wealth of the Dalai Lama himself.
Nehru raised questions about how funds were being raised and the extravagant way the money was being spent back in 1960, in a letter to the Dalai Lama: ‘Last year, in rather special circumstances, we gave travel facilities to your brother Gyalo Thondup and one or two others, and some amounts of foreign exchange were also made available to them to enable them to visit a number of countries and thereafter to proceed to New York. Our information is that Gyalo Thondup collected some money last year for Tibetan refugees. We do not know whether he has given full accounts for the money he had collected to Your Holiness. Our information further is that while he was abroad he spent rather lavishly and lived in expensive hotels. I do not think that in the circumstances this was fitting or desirable. I feel that collecting money abroad in this way is not in keeping with the dignity of Your Holiness or that of the Government of India. The Government of India have not only taken the liability for this purpose, but Your Holiness has also some funds at your disposal. We have no objection to receiving help from other countries, as we have already accepted some such offers. But for individuals to go about in foreign countries begging for aid for the Tibetan refugees appears to us to be totally inappropriate. Further what guarantee is there that the money so collected would, in fact, be properly utilised?
Your Holiness may remember that there were questions in our Parliament about the treasure that was handed to you last year. We had relaxed some of our rules in this matter in our desire to be of help to Your Holiness. We had hoped that the money, as Your Holiness said, would be utilised for the rehabilitation of your people in India.
I have now received requests from Gyalo Thondup and his wife for travel documents to enable them to go abroad. Among the reasons for going abroad, they have mentioned that they would promote an appeal in foreign countries for help towards the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees in India. For the reasons I have indicated above, we are entirely opposed to any such appeal being issued, more especially by individuals. In the circumstances, therefore, we have regretfully reached the conclusion that we should not give travel documents to Gyalo Thondup and his wife. Similarly, we have got a request from Mr Rinchen for facilities for going abroad. I am told that he would arrange for the publication of a book which you have written. I have no idea of what this book is about, but Your Holiness, no doubt, knows that it is not necessary for one of your staff to go abroad just to arrange for the publication of a book.’ (60) In his reply to this letter the Dalai Lama strongly denies that money was being spent extravagantly, claiming also that their expenses were paid by American benefactors. It is unlikely that Nehru would have made such accusations against the Dalai Lama’s own brother if he had not had sufficient evidence to feel it necessary to do so.
Gyalo Thondup (right) with colleagues in New York for the UN Appeal
Where did the Dalai Lama’s secret treasure go?
The treasure referred to in Nehru’s letter was the large quantities of gold and silver that the Dalai Lama brought out of Tibet, as described in Tashi Tsering’s autobiography, ‘The Struggle for Modern Tibet.’ “In 1950, when it had seemed like a Chinese invasion was imminent, the Dalai Lama’s substantial stocks of gold and silver had been transported out of the country to safety in Sikkim. During the 1950s, though the Dalai Lama himself was in Tibet, the gold and silver remained in one of the storehouses of the maharaja of Sikkim. The Chinese had asked for its return but had not made an issue of it at the time. Following the Lhasa Uprising and the flight of the Dalai Lama, they claimed that the money was not the Dalai Lama’s personal fortune but belonged to the country–which they now considered to belong to them. At that point the Tibetan leaders decided it was time to secure their treasure more permanently and farther away from the border; and because of my association with Gyalola [Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama’s brother], I found myself involved. It was quite an operation.The gold and silver were in the form of coins and ingots. When I became involved, the gold and silver were being hand-loaded onto trucks in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, and driven south to Siliguri, the location of the nearest airstrip. At the airport the literally millions of dollars’ worth of gold were loaded onto Dakota cargo planes and flown to Calcutta.When this precious cargo reached Calcutta, the gold was immediately put into the banks. But for a while the silver was stored in a single room on the third floor of a trusted Tibetan merchant’s house. It was my responsibility to stand guard over it, and for nearly a month I stood sentinel in a silent room full of coins and odd pieces of silver.’(55)
This description of the gold and silver that was taken out of Tibet is backed up by an article published on the Phayul website in April 2015: ‘In the first week of December 1959 Mr. Thondup called Tsarong to Calcutta and told him that the Tibetan government had decided to sell its gold and silver and that Tsarong was appointed as his assistant. He asked Tsarong to arrange air and ground transport and storage areas, which he did. The gold and silver were being brought down from the Gangtok Palace in Sikkim where it had been lying since the time the Tibetan government had it shipped there in 1950. When the gold and silver arrived at Calcutta airport they were taken under police escort as everything was done with the consent of the Government of India. All the gold was stored in bank safe deposits. The boxes of silver were stored at Calcutta’s Bara Bazaar under the supervision of Gyalo Thondup’s man Tashi Tsering. Soon the silver ingots and coins were smelted and made into bars and their fineness stamped at the Indian government mint at Alipore, Calcutta. The selling of the silver and the gold started at the end of 1959 and the proceeds were put into the Mercantile Bank.’ (56)
The writer of the article, Paljor Tsarong, felt it necessary to write the article in response to an accusation by Gyalo Thondup who said in his autobiography:”The Noodle maker of Kalimpong,” that when my father Dundul Namgyal Tsarong, alias George Tsarong, was looking after the Tibetan government’s gold and silver most of the money was lost or stolen.’ A similar refutation was posted on Facebook by Dundul Namgyal Tsarong’s granddaughter. (57) Paljor Tsarong goes on to explain in the article how the money was invested in various projects with varying degrees of success.
The exact value of the gold and silver, or how much of its value is now left in the Dalai Lama’s coffers, has never been disclosed. A newspaper article by Farrell, published in 1960 by Reuters, stated that ‘Tibetan circles close to the Dalai Lama say that it is worth about $1,600,000.’ (Roughly $12,800,000 today) Other Tibetans have claimed that it needed 1000 mules to bring the treasure from Lhasa to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim in 1950 , and that 10 aircraft were chartered to carry it to Calcutta. They maintain that the treasure may be worth up to $26,000,000. (Roughly $208, 000, 000 today) The Dalai Lama describes these reports as fantastic but so far has declined to disclose the value of the treasure…It is unlikely that the entire fortune will be sold, as the Dalai Lama will want to keep much of the gold in bullion against the day when he may return to Tibet. But already about $700,000 worth of silver has reached the open market, and the proceeds are being invested.’ (58)
A more recent article by Jigmie Dorji Yuthok on Tibetan Political Review website explores the part played by the Dalai Lama’s brother further: ‘But before returning to this subject, there is the little matter of the missing Tibetan gold and silver that Mr. Thondup goes to such great lengths to blame on others, despite his responsibility as a trustee of these funds. I have some direct knowledge that touches on this important issue. First let me say that I personally believe that the reason that Kalons Surkhang and Yuthok and Dzasa Pangdatshang have been targeted by Mr. Thondup is because all of them were members of the Tibetan Government that, in the lead-up to the Chinese invasion of 1949, had expelled all Chinese nationals from Tibet: a decree that applied to Mr. Thondup’s Chinese wife. And there were several other issues where Mr. Thondup had clashed with the Tibetan government both before and after the Chinese invasion, beginning with the Kashag’s displeasure with Mr. Thondup’s going to school in China instead of India. “At this time, sending one’s children to China to attend school was unheard of in the aristocracy. Those families who chose to send their children for a modern education (which was not possible to obtain in Tibet) all sent them to India. … … China, which, it should be noted, was ostensibly Tibet’s enemy.” After His Holiness’ and Mr. Thondup’s father died, the Kashag also appointed trustees to sort out the family’s finances, much to Mr. Thondup’s displeasure. So, in the midst of a number of intrigues that took place during the late 40’s and early 50’s, Mr. Thondup returned to Tibet in 1952 full of ideas that were out of step with Tibet’s political leadership. His controversial education in China made many doubtful of his recommendations. Thinking that he knew more than them, and unhappy that his ideas were rejected as “more red than the Red Chinese themselves,” he left for India. In other words, there was “bad blood” between the parties long before His Holiness ﬂed Tibet. Now add to that the fact that Surkhang, Yuthok and Pangdatshang had knowledge of the gold and silver the Tibetan Government had sent to Sikkim in 1950.
The Kashag were responsible for shipping the gold and silver there via the Tibetan border town of Yatung (Dromo), where Pangdatshang was Governor. And there was a lot of gold and silver. In 1959, the arrival of this gold and silver in Kolkata (Calcutta) from Sikkim became such big news that Mr. Desmond Doig, a journalist from The Statesman of Calcutta, interviewed Mr. Thondup, who told him that the value of the gold and silver was worth 6.4 million Indian rupees. Yes, by a strange coincidence that is the actual amount of the Tibetan loan request made earlier to India, discussed above. How Mr. Thondup pulled that number out of the air is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, or perhaps it was the ﬁrst number that popped into his head, having heard it before. But here’s where it gets really interesting. Pangdatshang told Doig that the value of the gold and silver was very much greater than what had been reported in his Statesmen article. When Doig went and asked Mr. Thondup about this discrepancy, Mr. Thondup — in a ﬁt of anger — told him that if he published any further news about the value of the Tibetan gold and silver, Mr. Thondup would send thousands of Tibetans to demonstrate in front of The Statesman’s ofﬁces. How do I know this? I was the interpreter during Pangdatshang’s meeting with Doig, and Doig recounted Mr. Thondup’s threat to me after he asked Mr. Thondup about the huge discrepancy. Add to this the fact that one of Mr. Thondup’s friends, Tashi Tsering, says that “literally millions of dollars worth of gold were loaded onto Dakota cargo planes and flown to Calcutta” and the mystery of what happened to the missing gold remains unsolved to this day. According to Tsering’s book, Mr. Thondup seemed to be in charge of the disposition of these precious metals, and it was Mr. Thondup who later charged Tsering with guarding the silver, which was put up in a merchant’s house for several weeks, melted down into ingots, and then taken away.’ (83)
The Dalai Lama leaving Tibet, March 1959
Interestingly at the time the Dalai Lama claimed the bullion was his ‘personal property,’ some may find this unjust considering his fellow Tibetans lost everything when they left Tibet. The Dalai Lama was of course protected by CIA trained bodyguards and was able to send ‘mule loads of gold, silver, jewels and religious treasures,’ across the border to Sikkim. Here the Maharajah of Sikkim hid the treasure ‘in a disused stable under the main road.’ The treasure was moved to the bank vaults in Calcutta but ‘it is generally believed that some more of the Dalai Lama’s treasure still lies buried in Southern Tibet.’Even at the time the tea chests of bullion were placed in the bank vaults the bank clerks were asked to vacate the vaults so they could not see the contents of the boxes as they were unpacked. Although the Dalai Lama promised that the money would be used ‘in the best possible way’ for the benefit of Tibetans, the full value of the treasure has never been disclosed. If the money was used for the benefit of all Tibetans then why is there so much secrecy about the value of the treasure, if it has all been sold and what has been done with the proceeds?
It could be that the Dalai Lama and his cronies do not feel they should be held accountable for the money, they genuinely see the money as the Dalai Lama’s property. In his autobiography Tashi Tsering describes the ‘help yourself’ culture that existed in Lhasa before the Dalai Lama left: ‘I was still disillusioned and angry about what I had seen going on in the treasury office in Lhasa. The ordinary people sent their taxes and tribute in the form of money and goods, and both monk and lay officials just took what they wanted. There were ledgers filled with accounts of tea bricks, butter, cloth, gold and silver. I saw the records that showed that the more powerful monks, especially those from aristocratic families and the Dalai Lama’s household, “borrowed” any of these things they wished for and never returned them. There was no overall record, no auditing. The officials and their friends and family could come in and take anything they fancied. I saw them doing so with my own eyes. I felt that going to work for the exiled aristocrats and monks would have meant going to work to restore the same old system.’ Perhaps the Dalai Lama still operates on this ‘help yourself’ principle. The American taxpayers, and westerners who donate to charities linked to the Dalai Lama, would no doubt be curious to know how much of the treasure saw its way to supporting the Tibetan people in exile.
Lack of clarity over exile Tibetan government’s funds
‘Details of the government-in-exile’s funding today are far from clear. Structurally, it comprises seven departments and several other special offices. There have also been charitable trusts, a publishing company, hotels in India and Nepal, and a handicrafts distribution company in the US and in Australia, all grouped under the government-in-exile’s Department of Finance. The government was involved in running 24 businesses in all, but decided in 2003 that it would withdraw from these because such commercial involvement was not appropriate. Several years ago, I asked the Dalai Lama’s Department of Finance for details of its budget. In response, it claimed then to have annual revenue of about $US22 million, which it spent on various health, education, religious and cultural programs. The biggest item was for politically related expenditure, at $US7 million. The next biggest was administration, which ran to $US4.5 million. Almost $US2 million was allocated to running the government-in-exile’s overseas offices. For all that the government-in-exile claims to do, these sums seemed remarkably low. It is not clear how donations enter its budgeting. These are likely to run to many millions annually, but the Dalai Lama’s Department of Finance provided no explicit acknowledgment of them or of their sources. Certainly, there are plenty of rumours among expatriate Tibetans of endemic corruption and misuse of monies collected in the name of the Dalai Lama. Many donations are channelled through the New York-based Tibet Fund, set up in 1981 by Tibetan refugees and US citizens. It has grown into a multimillion-dollar organisation that disburses $US3 million each year to its various programs.’ (2)
In her book ‘The Tibetan Government-In-Exile,’ (3) Stephanie Roemer also attempted to analyse the annual budget of the CTA and the Dalai Lama’s revenue. It seems that she too found several areas of income and expenditure that were not clearly documented, with large sums of money being unaccounted for, and spending unclear: For example the incoming revenues for the CTA increased dramatically, with the opening of CTA bureaus around the world, but what the revenue is spent on is unclear; “In addition to their official work as ‘Tibetan embassies’, as fundraisers that successfully generate enormous unspecific project-orientated financial help around the world.” The CTA has full control over the funds raised internationally; “So if parts of the exile Tibetan community or an individual do not fulfil the loyalty requests in the opinion of the CTA, they will be excluded from foreign aid.” (3) The largest part of the total annual expenditures of the CTA is listed under a general, vague title, ‘politically related affairs,’ this expenditure is not broken down by the finance department. It was equally difficult for Stephanie Roemer to gain clarity over the financial position of the Dalai Lama: “The grants of the 14th Dalai Lama are drawn from the inheritance of the Tibetans but also gifts and donations. The total amount of the 14th Dalai Lama’s treasury cannot be estimated because it is neither published nor did my interviewees give any detailed information. But the finance department assumes that the granted sum to the annual budget portrays only a small amount of his wealth.’
There is an excellent attempt to analyse the exile Government’s finances in the ‘Bi-monthly Journal on Mongolian and Tibetan Current Situation, Vol.17, No.2.’ (59) The author of the article, Yu-hsin Chen (MTAC Counselor and PhD of National Taiwan Normal University), rightly points out the difficulties facing the exile community: ‘Since the exile government was founded in foreign land, it has been working with extremely limited human, financial, and materials resources, a drawback which has made it difficult for it to fulfill its purpose. It was therefore a wonder that the exile government was able to survive and prosper under such serious financial hardship.’ He explains that the exile government did not share its financial figures until after the election in 2001: ‘On September 5, 2001, the newly elected Kalon Tripa Samdhong Lobsang Tenzin assumed office. Then, in his report to the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies on September 20 of the same year, he remarked that “the exile government’s revenue and expenditure information should be made public, and any questions regarding the information should be addressed immediately.1 ” This allowed people to take a glimpse into the financial situation of the exile government.’ This was obviously as it should be but Chen points out that the government’s records were not as transparent as they could have been: ‘However, data released by the exile government contain some errors, and do not include funds donated by countries and civilian groups under various projects. Moreover, the exile government has not released information regarding budget breakdown and final accounting of revenue and expenditure.’ It is extremely significant that the data does not include the many millions donated by people outside of the community. Later on in his article Chen explains that: ‘A significant part of the exile government’s revenue comes from donations from other countries and organization. For example, India provides financial aid to exile Tibetan settlements and schools every year. The European Parliament, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the US all provide the exile government with financial aid under various projects. These contributions from the international society, groups and individuals are of great importance to the exile government. In 2004, the exile government received 9,737,110,000 rupees ($145,814,390.70) in international aid. 35% of the money was spent on education, 24% on social welfare, 3% on political matters, 10% on health, 14% on construction projects, 4% on agricultural development, 3% on organizational development, 1% on religious and cultural affairs, 1% on unemployment compensation, and 5% on other matters (‘other matters’ leaves around $7,000,000 unaccounted for).
There is another significant piece of information uncovered in Chen’s analysis of the exile government’s table of income and expenditure:
‘In 2001, the year when exile Tibetans elected their Kalon Tripa for the first time in history, revenue budget for the exile government reached 109,507,651.86 rupees. Since then, the exile government’s revenue budget has been in the range of hundred million rupees ($1,497,512.00). However, the exile government made an error in the statistics for the year 2004-2005. The revenue for the year was 155,173,185.94 rupees, and the expenditure for the year was 901,231,396.24 rupees. But the balance for the year was miscalculated as 7,634,679.94 rupees in surplus. Figures shown in brackets in Table One refer to deficits… According to the 2004-2005 budget breakdown released by the exile government… the revenue and expenditure figures for the year were correct. Therefore the balance for the year should be -746,058,210.30 rupees (-$11,172,311.23). One would wonder what the real cause of the error might be.’
An article by Sangye Kunchok for the Tibetan Political Review website, in 2013, discusses how the political leaders cover up the true financial picture: ‘Have you seen the recently concluded Tibetan Parliament in Exile’s (TPiE) Budget session? It was ended with much confusion and qualms about the future sustainability of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). For many years we have been told that CTA’s financial status was weak and debt-ridden prior to Samdhong Rinpoche’s Administration. Then with Rinpoche’s blessing and his controversial privatization of the CTA’s businesses, the financial status has improved into excellent condition. Didn’t we hear that loud and clear?Things don’t look as rosy as the previous administration claimed and the numbers started speaking clearly. Thanks to our Chithus (Member of Parliament) especially, “Tsoepak Tsokchung” (Budget Estimation Committee) who have done a great job and whose qualms and questions sparked a great discussion in the parliament. The critical questions and comments by the Chithus brought an unwarranted high-pitched, emotional and disrespectful response from Finance Kalon that brought shame to the Sangay’s administration. The Kalon had to apologize later for his unprofessional behavior.’ The writer explains how ‘Sikyong Sangay objected the parliament’s resolution for auditing the CTA financial status on four grounds,’ avoiding an independent assessment of the finances of the CTA. It was extremely difficult to tell what the outcome of the budget was but Kunchok assessment was clear: ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it was a deficit budget but the manipulation of the numbers have blurred the real situation.’ The CTA presented the budget as having a surplus and even paid out bonuses to staff. In March 2015 they repeated this claim of a surplus on their official website: ‘“In the financial year 2013-2014, there was a surplus budget (Ngon-tsi ma-ngul) of INR 40.17 million. Similarly, in the last four years, at the end of every financial year, there was a balance budget with some surplus, indicating the sound financial state of the Central Tibetan Administration,” Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, the democratically elected Tibetan political leader, said.’ (62) Kunchok goes on to ask for an end to this misleading presentation of the figures; ‘This manipulative accounting tactics have been going on for too long and Sikyong Sangay must bring this practice to an end and bring about a fresh start.’ (61)
Such vagueness about income and expenditure is unacceptable. Tibetans within the community are entitled to know what their revenue is spent on. Likewise people who donate vast sums of money are entitled to know how their money is being used.
Nepotism and the Dalai Lama
Nepotism is patronage bestowed or favoritism shown on the basis of family relationship. (4) ‘Like many Asian politicians, the Dalai Lama has been remarkably nepotistic, appointing members of his family to many positions of prominence. In recent years, three of the six members of the Kashag, or cabinet, the highest executive branch of the Tibetan government-in-exile, have been close relatives of the Dalai Lama. An older brother served as chairman of the Kashag and as the minister of security. He also headed the CIA-backed Tibetan contra movement in the 1960s. A sister-in-law served as head of the government-in-exile’s planning council and its Department of Health. A younger sister served as health and education minister and her husband served as head of the government-in-exile’s Department of Information and International Relations. Their daughter was made a member of the Tibetan parliament in exile. A younger brother has served as a senior member of the private office of the Dalai Lama and his wife has served as education minister. The second wife of a brother-in-law serves as the representative of the Tibetan government-in-exile for northern Europe and head of international relations for the government-in-exile. All these positions give the Dalai Lama’s family access to millions of dollars collected on behalf of the government-in-exile.’ (2)
The 1989 Taiwan Scandal
The Dalai Lama’s brother, Gyalo Dondrub was heavily involved in illegal arms trading carried on by exile Tibetans between Taiwan, Pakistan and Burma. (31)
The secret involvement of the Dalai Lama and the government in exile is investigated in some detail in the book, ‘Buddhism between Tibet and China’ edited by Matthew Kapstein, Director of Tibetan Studies at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris. “The writing is objective, detailed and highly readable. I recommend it strongly.” Colin MacKerras, Professor Emeritus, Griffith University.
“The long simmering hostility of some Tibetan exiles toward Taiwan finally erupted in a major scandal in 1989. A leading member of the thirteen group of settlements, who had long been criticized by Dharamsala loyalists for taking Taiwanese funds, charged that Dharamsala was also secretly taking money from Taiwan and, moreover, that a high official of the exile government had pocketed a large quantity of these funds. In the ensuing uproar, the government’s credibility was seriously compromised; this, in turn, led to the widespread suspicion that the entire affair had been engineered by Taiwan to sow dissension and mistrust in the exile community. The scandal had its origins in the pro- independence demonstrations that occurred in Lhasa between 1987 and 1989. Shortly after the imposition of martial law in 1989, Yan Mingfu, the secretary of the CPC Central Secretariat in Beijing, accused Dharamsala of orchestrating the protests. Such accusations were not unusual, but this time there was a new twist: he alleged that this operation involved exiles smuggling arms into Tibet, using foreign tourists as agents, and, most inflammatory of all, that the Tibetan operatives had been trained in Japan by unspecified non- governmental organizations:
‘[The Dalai Lama’s] government- in- exile made use of the opening up of Tibet to send people across the border to plot a large- scale riot in Lhasa on 10 March. To prevent violence and to save the lives and properties of the Tibetan people, the central government decided to impose martial law in Lhasa, thus disrupting their plan of a large- scale riot. We confirmed that they had shipped many weapons into Tibet; and that they had sent in some people who had undergone special training in Japan. These people were not trained by the Japanese Government, of course, but by different kinds of organizations that paid for the training. Soon after we learned this, we sent a message to the Dalai Lama and requested that he stop doing this if he really intended to improve relations with us. Aware of our strict control, the Dalai then turned to foreign tourists to infiltrate Tibet through various channels, showing no sincerity in attempting to improve relations with us [italics mine].’
The implications of these allegations were enormous. If Tibetan operatives were being trained in Japan, it would have been the first time that a foreign power was involved in Tibetan efforts to resist China since the CIA had stopped its Tibetan operations in the 1960s. In addition, given that the Dalai Lama had recently made well- publicized proposals to China in an effort to open a pathway to a negotiated settlement, if it were true that exiles were simultaneously smuggling arms to Tibet, it would suggest that the Dalai Lama’s proposal had not been in good faith. The Tibetan government- in- exile denied the Chinese accusations but later in 1989 new allegations surfaced, this time from within the Tibetan community, that there was indeed a Japanese link to the demonstrations in Tibet. It was further claimed that the financial backing for the operation had come from Taiwan and, perhaps most disconcerting, that some of these funds had been embezzled by an important member of the Tibetan government- in- exile, who was stationed in Japan. These allegations had an explosive impact on the Tibetan community. If they were true, it would mean that, contrary to Dharamsala’s public stance, the Tibetan government- in- exile was also taking funds from the MTAC, but doing so secretly. The scandal surrounding these accusations was intense. It was widely believed that some members of the thirteen group of settlements were taking funds from Taiwan, and they were strongly criticized for this. So, when a leading member of the thirteen group charged that the Tibetan government- in- exile was also receiving funding from Taiwan, and moreover that the main conduit for these funds— a highly respected member of the Tibetan community— was suspected of pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars, it produced an enormous uproar. The scandal was further intensified by allegations that the reason the Taiwanese had provided the funds was to help Dharamsala foment trouble inside Tibet, since this revived old suspicions from the days of the Mustang resistance that Taiwan sought to supplant Tibetan leadership of the independence struggle and bring the Tibetan political struggle under its wing. Dharamsala’s oblique acknowledgment that it had used some Taiwanese funds for activities inside Tibet did not help matters.” (32)
It is important to note that accusations of receiving funds from Taiwan was one of the chief scapegoat strategies used by the Dalai Lama and CTA against the 13 Settlements and Dorji School in Nepal, in order to undermine these organisations opposition to the Dalai Lama’s policies. In his book, ‘Buddhism Observed’, Peter Moran describes taking money from Taiwan was used by many Tibetans, ‘almost as a litmus test of fealty to the Dalai Lama and to the Tibetan nation in general, as well as a way of disparaging fellow Tibetans.’ (33) The fact that the Dalai Lama, his family and the exile government appear to have been in receipt of funds from Taiwan, whilst accusing others of being traitors to the Tibetan cause for doing this same thing, shows astounding hypocrisy.
Cronyism in the exile community
Cronyism, the practice of favouring one’s close friends, especially in political appointments. (5) The following description, taken from an autobiography, shows how the Dalai Lama and his cronies could use marriage to elevate favoured people into positions of political and military power. ‘Tsawa Tritrul, an incarnate Lama who was close to the Dalai Lama, suggested a marriage between her and Chensal Namgang, who was then one of the Dalai Lama’s favorites…. Chensal Namgang was born in a peasant family. He made great contribution to the Dalai Lama’s safety by stopping Chinese pursuers when he fled to India in 1910. The Dalai Lama considered him as his life-saver. With the Dalai Lama’s approval, Dasang Dadul (the new name given to Chensal Namgang by the Dalai Lama) and Rikzin Choton married and the bridegroom took the surname Tsarong. Through the marriage Dasang Dadul was ennobled, and he was known as Tsarong Dasang Dadul since. The addition of this man into the family maintained the sociopolitical position of Tsarong because of the important role he played in the government of Tibet. He was the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Chief Cabinet Minister of the government. Therefore, the Tsarong family continued to exercise enormous power.’ (6)
Corruption in Parliament
On March 16th of this year the speaker of the Tibetan parliament, Penpa Tsering, threatened to resign due to allegations made by Tenpa Yangphel, a Member of Parliament, who alleged there were people in the parliament ‘who indulge in corruption, personalization of public property and murder.’ Penpa Tsering demanded that the allegations were withdrawn, instead Yangphel went on to give more details, saying his insinuations were ‘directed at Dawa Tsering, MP from U-Tsang and founder of Yongling Kindergarten in Mcleod Ganj for privatization of public property, Kirti Dolkar Lhamo, former MP from Domey, who resigned on corruption charges and Speaker Penpa Tsering for murder.’ (7)
Dawa Tsering was one of three people appointed by the Dalai Lama as members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile. In 2013 he was taken to court by a private individual, Pasang Tsewang, a certified lawyer from the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission, to contest Dawa Tsering’s claims of ownership over Yongling Kindergarten. (8) Tsewang describes on his blog the long legal battle he fought on his own, even handing out leaflets to the media waiting outside the courts in person.
‘As a certified lawyer from the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission, I first filed a case in the Tibetan court. The court ruled citing a number of evidence that the school belonged to the community and that it’s a public property. Dawa Tsering then brought me to High Court in Shimla charging me for defaming him. The court transferred the case to the District Court in Dharamshala. This court also upheld the Tibetan court verdict. Despite losing cases in both Tibetan and Indian courts, Dawa Tsering continues to claim the ownership of the school. Corruption cannot be eradicated if proper actions are not taken. In order to fight this evil practice, I have decided to bring the case to district court in Dharamshala again. The costs to fight the case will go in thousands and thousands of rupees. I would like to seek your help to fight this case. If you could provide monetary assistance, following are my bank details:’ (9)
The question must be asked why did the CTA not deal with this case themselves, why was it left to a private individual? In court Tsewang included amongst his evidence letters from the CTA, that clearly illustrate they knew the school rightfully belonged to the Tibetan community, why did they not intervene to stop this corruption themselves? The lack of intervention in this case is indicative of an administration that offers protection to the Dalai Lama’s cronies, even when those cronies are clearly breaking the law.
Pasang Tsewang aka Yabchen speaks to journalists .
Kirti Dolkar Lhamo
The second allegation Yangphel made was against Kirti Dolkar Lhamo, on charges of corruption. In November 2013 the CTA’s official website stated that Lhamo resigned for ‘personal reasons,’ after 20 years of service in the Tibetan parliament in exile. (10)
However it seems that there was an article published on the Tibet Sun website in 2012 in which Dolkar Lhamo admitted embezzlement, ‘“I was going to replace the money, but the situation was discovered before I could do that.”
Unfortunately links to this article appear to now be broken.
Anonymous allegations have been made on social media that ‘Kirti Dolkar Lhamo was quietly removed as President of TWA in 2012 after caught stealing 2 lakhs of the organisation money.’ (11) Further anonymous information on social media claims that she ‘took out a cheque of rupees 2 Lakhs (approx. 3,900 USD) from the account of head office without any sanctions and discussions with her colleagues, several weeks back. When the disappearance of specified cheque was registered to the concerned bank by the colleagues, they came to know that cheque amount was received by the family member of President of TWA.’(12) The silence of the CTA in this case speaks volumes, at no time have the allegations been denied. Now that these allegations have been stated as a matter of fact, by a Member of Parliament, during a parliamentary session one can only assume they are based on fact. ‘During the 15th Parliament, due to corruption committed by a sitting MP from Domey, we had a by-election.’ Yangphel himself goes on to point out that silence from the CTA on matters of corruption is a sign of undemocratic cronyism: ‘If we are not allowed to express the decaying nature of our society in the Parliament, what kind of democracy do we have? Democracy based on restraint, democracy based on sycophancy. These days, even the Chinese government publishes articles on corruption. If we are not allowed to express about it, on what basis do we have the right to ridicule China,”’
Corruption, Cronyism and Cults
For someone considered to be one of the World’s leading spiritual leaders the Dalai Lama has strange taste in friends and shows a complete lack of discernment about the source of any income.
Funding from Cults
Bronfman Sisters’ Millions, NXIVM and the Dalai Lama
‘The Dalai Lama was supposed to pay a visit to the University at Albany in late April, where he was set to speak to students and participate in a number of panel discussions, but he reportedly cancelled his trip because of negative publicity surrounding the Ethical Humanitarian Foundation, the hosting organization. He later rescheduled his visit to Albany, but not his visit to the university. The EHF was founded by Sarah and Clare Bronfman and is based on the beliefs of Keith Raniere, the founder of a for-profit group NXIVM, who some have likened to a cult. The Bronfmans are both NXIVM supporters and participants.’ (13)
“Many knew that Edgar Bronfman’s daughters were involved in a secretive organization called nxivm (pronounced “nexium”), a group that he himself had openly referred to as “a cult.” But only a few were aware of what the court documents would reveal—the massive gutting by the Bronfman daughters of their family trust funds to help finance nxivm and the alleged investment schemes of its leader, a 50-year-old man by the name of Keith Raniere. The amount—reportedly $100 million—was staggering and made for eye-popping headlines. But according to legal filings and public documents, in the last six years as much as $150 million was taken out of the Bronfmans’ trusts and bank accounts.” (14)
It seems the Bronfman sisters were obsessed with both Keith Raniere, the Leader of NXIVM and the Dalai Lama. “The heiress wanted to meet the Dalai Lama. She wanted the Dalai Lama to be her friend. She had been obsessed with him for two-and-a-half years. Ms. Bronfman sensed a connection between the Dalai Lama’s teachings and her training. “The way he looks at things is very scientific and very much in line with the philosophy of NXIVM,” she told the host. “I said, ‘Well, that kind of sounds like what we do!’” (15)
‘They had worked hard for more than a year to organize the Dalai Lama’s visit to Albany. And, on May 6, several weeks before Bronfman’s birthday party, when the Dalai Lama spoke at Albany’s Palace Theatre, Sara and Clare were seated on the stage with him. For the Bronfmans, this was a big moment, but the event would trigger the first swell of public anger at the sisters. When the visit was announced, there had been an outcry in the Albany press that the Dalai Lama would associate himself with the “cult-like” nxivm. Both Skidmore College and Raniere’s alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic, declined to host the event. E-mails of complaint were sent to the Dalai Lama. For the first time, the Bronfmans’ ties to nxivm were major headline material. In early April, the Dalai Lama cancelled his visit. What happened next is something of a mystery. People believe that Sara and Clare flew to Dharamsala, India, to plead with him. And, if so, it’s possible they were just extremely persuasive—because His Holiness changed his mind. But the Dalai Lama Trust, registered in New York State just two days before the Dalai Lama’s appearance in Albany, raised eyebrows. Calls to the trust were not returned. The Bronfman money, it was said, might still be able to buy a lot of things, but not respect.(14)
Vanity Fair’s suggestion that the Bronfman sisters may have persuaded the Dalai Lama to change his mind about cancelling the Albany talk, by using promises of money, is repeated on the Cult News Website: ‘CultNews has heard persistent rumors that before the Albany event the Dalai Lama and/or his charities received a very large donation from someone with ties to NXIVM.’ (16)
This ‘persistent rumours’ appear to be confirmed in an article published in the Buffalo Chronicle, in December 2015, by Frank Parlato. Frank was the press consultant for Keith Raniere, ‘tasked with improving his public image.’ …’It was 2007 and at the time the press did not know Raniere had blown over $100 million of Bronfman sisters’ inheritance on bogus commodities investments, a crooked real estate deal, and paying lawyers to sue his enemies; nor did they know Raniere slept all day and at night had a harem of female devotees who gave their hearts, minds and undressed bodies to him…
Getting the Dalai Lama The slight improvement in their press coverage may have encouraged Raniere to seek what many commercial operations seek – a celebrity endorsement. In the past he had used the late actor Eddie Albert. He tried for Goldie Hawn once – but failed. This time he wanted a “higher power” endorsement.His Holiness The Pope was out of the question. Rev. Billy Graham was not likely to make a public endorsement of Raniere – no matter how much the Bronfman sisters were willing to spend.One day, I got an enthusiastic call from one of Raniere’s inner circle.“What would you say if we got the Dalai Lama to come to Albany and announce that Keith’s teachings are the solution to the world’s problems?” she asked. I asked, “Does The Dalai Lama know Keith?”“No. But Sara and Clare are ready to donate a million to the Dalai Lama. One of the Dalai Lama’s assistants, a monk is here in Albany and Sara is showing him everything. If the Dalai Lama, one of the spiritual leaders of the world, comes to Albany and endorses Keith the press will not say we are a cult; we are cutting edge.” I believed the Bronfman sisters would be able to procure the services of the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama was not only the spiritual leader of Buddhism in Tibet, but the head of the Tibetan Government in exile; he led a refugee government headquartered in Dharamshala, India.While little is known about the Dalai Lama’s personal wealth or his government-in-exile’s finances – their published budget for 2002-03 amounted to $22 million – a government in exile cannot forcibly tax anyone; the Dalai Lama is dependent on donations. I advised Raniere that while I was confident a million dollars would lure him, I doubted this would spin well in the press. I was never again asked for help with the media and soon afterward was fired after I discovered and revealed facts about how the Bronfmans lost $100 million at Raniere’s hands.’
After Sara apparently entered into sexual relations with the ‘celibate’ Venerable Lama Tenzin Dhonden, a special emissary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Claire ‘announced to the media that the Dalai Lama was to appear in Albany for a four-day session of talks and meetings, capped by an appearance on Sunday, April 19, 2009, at the Albany Times Union Center, where His Holiness would give a public address on compassion and ethics – a lecture sponsored by Clare, Sara and Raniere’s organization, The World Ethical Foundations Consortium. Tickets were priced at “$52, $82 and $112′′ and, with a maximum seating capacity of 17,500 at the Times-Union Center, that could pull in a million dollars for the Dalai Lama.Instead of receiving the tidings with joy, there was an outburst of shock recorded in the Albany press that the Dalai Lama would associate himself with the “cult-like” NXIVM. The Dalai Lama, frequently an honored speaker at prestigious universities across the United States, was, it was noted, not being officially hosted by any school in the Albany area.The Albany Times-Union reported that despite the stature of the religious leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, no school was willing to lend its name as an official host for an event associated with Raniere. Skidmore College and Raniere’s alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic, declined to host the event.A Rensselaer spokesperson explained, “While we have the highest respect for the Dalai Lama and his teachings, we chose not to accept the invitation based on a variety of considerations.”The University of Albany agreed to rent out an arena but with the strict precondition, “that by no means were we going to allow NXIVM to be part of our relationship with the Dalai Lama. NXIVM and the organization were not going to have any part with dealing with our students, or advertising or recruiting,” according to U Albany’s vice president for development, Fardin Sanai.Stories in the Times Union, the Albany Student Press, The Daily Gazette, and Metroland expressed people’s astonishment at the coupling of the Dalai Lama with the Bronfman Raniere cult.
Daniel Weaver, wrote in the Schenectady Gazette, “Keith Raniere has been involved in controversy for the last 20 years. He’s been the subject of lawsuits and investigations. He has initiated numerous lawsuits, many of which appear to be frivolous. He also harasses people…. He is hardly a poster boy for humanitarianism, peace and ethics; and his invitation to the Dalai Lama to speak makes one question the motive of the invitation….. Raniere has not utilized compassionate ethical methods and solutions to address problems. Keith Raniere has brought anything but peace to the Capital Region. …. In 2003, Keith Raniere roped actress Goldie Hawn into speaking at … an annual NXIVM event. When Hawn learned about the controversies surrounding Raniere … she canceled her appearance. If Goldie Hawn has the sense not to appear at an event sponsored by Keith Raniere, then cancellation by the Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, should be a no‐brainer.”
Like Goldi, the Dalai Lama cancels too
With the spate of negative publicity, the Dalai Lama canceled his appearance. Times Union Publisher George Hearst, who spoke with a representative of the Dalai Lama, said, “there’s enough stuff out there that (they) don’t need to expose His Holiness to this kind of risk.”This was a PR nightmare for NXIVM. If the Dalai Lama did not appear he was all but saying NXIVM was a cult. Raniere instructed his top assistant, Nancy Salzman, to rush to India to see the Dalai Lama and bring Sara and Clare and, of course, their checkbook.They were persuasive.While the Dalai Lama would not consent to a four day Albany tour, he did agree to deliver a single lecture –in Albany – one night; a 24-hour visit. He was coming to the US anyway for an official Harvard University sponsored engagementThe Dalai Lama Trust, was registered in New York State, just two days before the Dalai Lama’s rescheduled appearance in Albany. I was told by reliable sources at NXIVM that the Bronfmans donated/guaranteed $1 million to the Dalai Lama.
So, he’s back…
The press that jubilantly announced the cancelation now announced the rescheduling, noting also that the Dalai Lama event moved from the 17,500 seat Albany Times-Union Center to the much smaller, 2,800 seat Albany Palace Theater. Tickets prices dropped to $55 to $85 per person which meant a gross of less than $250,000.Critics took shots at the Dalai Lama. It was widely assumed that Bronfman money changed his mind. It was pointed out that the Dalai Lama once before received a gift from a purported “cult” leader. Shoko Asahara, founder of Aum, the Japanese cult responsible for gassing the Tokyo subway system in 1995, injuring 6,000 and killing 13 reportedly donated $1.2 million dollars to His Holiness before his killing spree.When questioned about any financial incentive from the Bronfmans connected to his visit to Albany, Lobsang Nyandak, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Americas, was a little unclear in his answers. At first he told the Times Union that the Dalai Lama would not receive money for his trip. When pressed for clarification, however, he said that whatever money was received would be “used for charitable and other purposes as per His Holiness’ guidance.”
The Dalai Lama arrives and explains
On May 6, the Dalai Lama arrived to speak at Albany’s Palace Theatre to a near capacity crowd of about 2600. Sara and Clare were seated onstage with him.At the beginning of his talk, the Dalai Lama presented Sara and Clare with white silk scarves, called “kataks,” which, according to Tibetan culture, symbolize purity.The Dalai Lama, seated cross legged on an oversized chair, addressed the audience on the topic of compassion for about an hour and a half. When the time came for questions, the Dalai Lama was asked about his canceled then rescheduled visit.“Firstly I received an invitation that, in principle, I accepted,” The Dalai Lama said, “Because this is controversial, some allegations, then we carry further investigations. Then finally this organization’s teacher (Salzman) and some friend(s) (Bronfman sisters) came to see me in Dharmasala and I discussed, I observed, basically they are carrying some kind of movement about ethics…. When I met them personally in Dharmasala, I told them very friendly, very openly, ‘as far your sort of work for promotion of ethics I fully support…. but at the same time …. If you have done something wrong, you must accept, you must admit, change, make correction. If you have not done (anything wrong), make clear all these allegations (are untrue), truthfully, honestly, openly, transparently.’”The Dalai Lama – covering his bases with aplomb – also asked the press to investigate – everything – to have the long nose of the elephant – and smell the truth from the front and behind.At the event’s conclusion, the Dalai Lama called Raniere – who was in the audience – on stage and placed a katak around his neck.
A lesson for Bronfmans After the Dalai Lama’s visit – the honor that Raniere and the Bronfmans sought from the endorsement eluded them. Following my dismissal and subsequent attack by Raniere (with Bronfman millions) – their negative publicity increased.The exposure of the real estate and commodities loss totaling $100 million dwarfed a sole lecture by the Dalai Lama. And the onslaught of negative publicity have rightly rained down on them ever since.’ (
Shoko Asahara, Aum and the Dalai Lama
CultNews.com go on to say; ‘If the rumors were true this wouldn’t be the first time that His Holiness took money from a less than holy “cult.” He reportedly accepted more than a $1 million dollars from convicted murderer Shoko Asahara, the leader of Aum.’ (16)
Asahara’s cult members released the deadly nerve gas sarin on a Tokyo subway on March 20, killing 13 and injuring 4,700. The magazine Focus, the second-largest political weekly in Germany, reported on Sept. 18 that “in total, Asahara and the Dalai Lama met five times, first in February 1987, in India. Following this, the Tibetan god-king wrote recommendations for him.” Based on these recommendations Asahara was given tax-exempt status, enabling him to to buy the Sarin gas with tax-exempt funds.
Mary Burdman in her article, ‘Dalai Lama’s ties to Aum sect exposed’ suggests that the strong links between the Dalai Lama and such ‘cults’ indicates a need to curb the Dalai Lama’s followers, in the cult-ridden circles of Hollywood and London. (17) Indeed CultNews.Com feels that the relationship between the Dalai Lama and Asahara may have influenced more people to join the Aum cult; ‘Perhaps many Japanese later joined Aum based upon the appearance of respectability that meeting seemingly conferred.’ (16)
The Dalai Lama and CTA were able to use their control of the media to silence any criticism of his relationship with the mass murderer: ‘In May 1995, [the only independent Tibetan newspaper, Democracy] published a piece about Shoko Asahara, the Japanese cult leader, highlighting the fact that he had been friends with the Dalai Lama before being accused of killing eleven [sic] people in a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo Subway. The article suggested that perhaps the government should be careful about who it conducted relations with in the future. Not long after that, in March 1996, the newspaper ceased publication.’ (18)
Corruption, Cronyism and Children
The following items illustrate how the Dalai Lama and his cronies seem to view exiled Tibetan children as ‘national resources’ that can be used, at different times, for monetary, political and military gain; seemingly with little regard for the safety and well-being of the children. In each of these instances the Dalai Lama, his family and other individuals have cynically taken advantage of the exile Tibetan children, particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, as a result of being orphaned or separated from their families. The children are used as objects, or resources, to be exploited, as if the property of the Dalai Lama and the State, who should in fact be providing the care and protection that these children desperately need.
The Dalai Lama’s Wikileak shame
Recent Wikileaks releases of US Embassy cables reveal more shameful behaviour by the Dalai Lama. As has been well documented on this site the Dalai Lama colluded with the CIA to establish an armed resistence to the Chinese presence in Tibet. When this failed the Dalai Lama established a secret Tibetan unit within the Indian Army – the shadowy ‘Establishment 22′. The cable releases reveal that the Dalai Lama’s secret army received a steady stream of new recruits from the Tibetan Children’s Village Schools. As the cable says: ‘Membership in Establishment 22 was compulsory for Tibetan students graduating from Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) schools until the late 1980s’. These schools were set up for the destitute children and orphans amongst the Tibetan refugee community with international aid donations. How ironic that in the lead up to receiving the Nobel peace prize in 1989, the Dalai Lama was forcing orphans under his care into military service in his secret army. Not only this, these orphans were then sent into war with the Dalai Lama’s consent in 1971 to fight for India against Pakistan, and in other violent conflicts.(19)
Scandal of Tibetan Orphanages in the Past
‘In characteristic nepostic fashion the Dalai Lama appointed his elder sister, Tsering Dolma, to manage the funds donated for the welfare of the Tibetans orphans. A western visitor to the orphanage described the conditions she found there:
‘Some one thousand refugees, mainly children, lived there. Two hundred boys slept in one room, arranged with bunk beds all around the walls and with mattresses covering the floor. The boys slept crosswise to a mattress seven on each one of them. The girls slept in smaller rooms in similar conditions. Overcrowding was rife and of course infections spread like wildfire. Tibetan children were used to the relatively germ-free conditions of the Tibetan plateau and were vulnerable to the diseases of the Indian plains especially while travelling across them to reach Dharamsala. They had no immunity to the diseases of a hot climate. Many children died during a measles outbreak and from hepatitis from infected water. Most children suffered from scabies, eye and ear infections, worms, dysentery. Many got pneumonia and other respiratory infections.’ She found Dalai Lama’s sister’s attitude to the orphans heartbreaking: ‘Mrs Tsering Dolma was most concerned lest Westerners who occasionally visited showed too much affection to the children.’ (20)
As Tom Grunfeld noted in his book, The Making of Modern Tibet ‘ …while the children in her care were frequently on the verge of starvation, [Tsering Dolma] was noted for her formal twelve-course luncheons. Meanwhile, in bitterly cold weather the children were clad in thin, sleeveless cotton frocks―though when VIPs visit the Upper Nursery, every child there is dressed warmly in tweeds, wool, heavy socks, and strong boots.’ (21)
Scandal of the Swiss Adoptions
A Swiss documentary called “Tibi and His Mothers” shows how young children were separated from their parents, and were made orphans as part of a political scheme by the Dalai Lama back in the 1960s. The Ueli Meier documentary shows just how blood ties were torn apart by unnatural forces. (22)
Charles Aeschimann, the founder and organiser of the foster child campaign, was born in Geneva. He had previously applied to the Swiss Red Cross for the adoption of two Korean
war orphans without success. On reading that the Dalai Lama had expressed his wish that American and European families would take Tibetan child refugees into care and enable them to get a Western education, Aeschimann, contacted Heinrich Harrer, the author of the book ‘seven Years in Tibet’, who had personal access to the Dalai Lama and his familiy. In autumn 1959 Harrer arranged a meeting between Aeschimann and the Dalai Lama’s older brother, Thupten Norbu, who was visiting the United Nations Office in Geneva at the time. Thupten Norbu promised Aeschimann to look for a Tibetan refugee child in India for him. In return Aeschimann pledged to organise the accommodation of 20 Tibetan orphans at the Children’s Village of the Pestalozzis Children’s Foundation in Trogen and to guarantee the financing of a Tibetan house to accommodate the children. In August 1960 the Aeschimann family received a two-year-old Tibetan refugee child from a representative of the Dalai Lama, from India for adoption.
Despite the fact he was in no way qualified or experienced in fostering children, among his acquaintances, Aeschimann found another dozen families who were prepared to
take in a Tibetan child. In a personal meeting at the office of the Tibetan Government in exile in Dharamsala Aeschimann and the 14th Dalai Lama negotiated a mutual agreement regarding the accommodation of Tibetan foster children in swiss families.
On July 12, 1961, the journalist Werner Wollenberger wrote an article about Charles Aeschimann’s private initiative in the magazine ‘Nebelspalter’ and encouraged the readers to support the campaign. ‘The Dalai Lama’, Wollenberger wrote ‘is in support of the campaign. Once his country is freed from the communist butchers, he wants to turn these children into the country’s elite.’ Within a few weeks, more than 300 families prepared to foster a Tibetan child had got in touch with the magazine and the editors forwarded the letters directly to Aeschimann. Aeschimann, who had up to then no experience regarding foster children, then chose 132 families according to his own criteria, allocating one or more Tibetan child to each family.
The selection of the Tibetan foster children in India was organised by the Dalai Lama’s older sister, Tsering Dolma Takla, who was in charge of the Nursery for Tibetan Refugee Children in Dharamsala under the custody of the Dalai Lama. In August 1961, the first group of Tibetan foster children from Dharamsala arrived at Zurich Airport on a Swissair flight. The costs for the flights from India to Switzerland were covered by the refugee service of the World Council of Churches in Geneva and the American refugee organisation United states escape Program.
Aeschimann planned to expand his foster child campaign, however, at the time, he didn’t have the necessary approval by the Swiss authorities. Thanks to his professional position, Aeschimann had excellent contacts to political decision makers in Switzerland. He therefore directly approached the newly appointed Director of the Department for International Organisations at the Federal Political Department . It was quite clear from the beginning that for most of the Tibetan children ‘a return to Asia after a prolonged stay in Switzerland would be out of the question’. Schürch encouraged Aeschimann to involve the Swiss Red Cross in his campaign, something he categorically rejected. Despite the many doubts and objections concerning the privately organised and financed campaign by the top civil servants, they eventually agreed to grant a refugee status to 200 Tibetan foster children
On February 13, 1963, the Swiss ambassador to India, Jacques-Albert Cuttat, informed Jacob Burckhardt in a confidential letter that, on the occasion of the departure of the third group of children at the embassy in Delhi, he had discovered that only a minority of children were complete orphans. He wrote that most of the children still had at least one parent alive. In fact 92 of the foster children still had both their mother and father while 45 children at least still had one living parent. There is no information about the parents of 2 children. Only 19 Tibetan foster children were complete orphans.
Modern Children’s Homes
Even as recently as March 2015 the world press are reporting allegations of poor conditions and treatment of orphaned children in the exile Tibetan State children’s homes. ‘Norden Johnson is 21 years old and, with his sister Lakhdon, has lived for 10 years at the TCV. There, he explained to the court and to the Indian Courier, you were hungry (“you ate only bread, rice and vegetables”), the lack of space (“there were up to 30 children in each house, with one adult to look after all “), cold (” lacked blankets, and we had to wash with cold water even in winter “). He added: “We were cleaning toilets, cooking, and washing clothes. One day, as punishment, I was forced to stand upright on my hands: when I fell, my guardian hit me with an electric cable. It seemed like a military training camp.’ (23)
These poor conditions are particularly shocking in the light of the large amount of funds the Homes have access to. ‘Founded in 1960 “to take care of the children of Tibetan exiles in India”, the TCV, thanks to the support of Hollywood stars such as Richard Gere, now manages around 30 schools and institutions, attended by almost 17 thousand children. It is financed through child sponsorship ($ 480 a year for each child, (children may have several sponsors) but, as evidenced by the budget obtained by the Corriere, donations from private individuals (728 000 EUR ) are only part of the yearly income (which in 2014 was 9.5 million euro, up 9.6% compared to 2013). In addition to goods and property for 28 million euro, there is also 7 million in cash. This information is not shared with prospective funders of course.’ (23)
Critically the Homes do not seem to be subject to the legislation and checks that are required for institutions giving children up for adoption, that are necessary to safeguard the children. ‘On its website, the institute denies giving children up for adoption (“no child living in any of the offices of the TCV is given up for adoption”), and in fact does not appear in the list of facilities authorized to handle adoptions Indian national or international, nor is it clear whether it should have orphans in its custody, since it is not even registered as “institution for the care of children” in accordance with “Juvenile Justice Act” of 2000.’ However there is clear evidence that children have been given to adoptive parents outside of the exile community in India; ‘Norden and sister were adopted seven years ago from a family of New York, and the President of TCV Tsewang Yeshi spoke openly of “adoption,” to Paola Pivi.
Despite the fact the wellbeing and safety of children was called into question during the court case the Dalai Lama and CTA did not investigate or respond to the allegations. ‘It is not clear if the Dalai Lama knows the story; But official documents show that he knows its representative Tenpa Tsering. The President of the TCV and Jetsum Pema, sister of the Dalai Lama and director for 46 years, did not respond to phone calls and emails sent by courier for weeks to hear their version of events. “I have no time for this story,” answered the phone Losang Sangay, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile.’ (23)
The Dalai Lama says we should stand up to corruption wherever it exists, perhaps he would like to start by cleaning up the exile community.
(17) http://bit.ly/1GMz1xR Dalai Lama’s ties to Aum sect exposed by Mary Burdman
(32) ‘Buddhism between China and Tibet’ Edited by Matthew T Kapstein
(33) Buddhism Observed: Travellers, Exiles and Tibetan Dharma in Kathmandu’ -Peter Moran