By Indy Hack
Throughout his time in exile the Indian Government has allowed the Dalai Lama to live tax-free and turned a blind eye to his audacious international tax avoidance scheme. Many of the profits from his overseas tours are funneled back to India into a fund called, “His Holiness the Dalai Lama Charitable Trust”, and people are told that profits from his events are used for charitable purposes that the Dalai Lama deems appropriate. However many believe that this is not a charitable trust, but opine that is instead the Dalai Lama’s own private trust fund, that according to at least one trustee he treats as “his personal bank account”.
Although its name implies that it is a charitable trust, “His Holiness the Dalai Lama Charitable Trust”, was registered under the Indian Trusts Act in Calcutta in 1964,which could allow a private trust to manage the Dalai Lama’s personal investments, not as a charitable trust. In its opinion Allied Legal, believes that “Despite popular belief a Charitable Trust will be registered under the Indian Registration Act not under the Indian Trusts Act.”
Being a charitable trust allows for millions of dollars of tax avoidance preventing any levy for his public appearances being paid to the host the nation. Furthermore the trust fund is also believed to pay for the Dalai Lama’s own activities and entertainment. Whilst it does make many charitable donations the Dahli Lama seems to also use this fund to indulge his lavish lifestyle such as his 15 Rolex watches, his pastry chef, and his entourage of servants.
Since this mechanism was first discovered the Dalai Lama published a website claiming the trust, “was established…as an irrevocable public trust”, which is untrue. According to R&A Associates, a specialist Indian law firm, “The provisions of the Indian Trusts Act do not apply to Public Trusts”. As the fund was established under the Indian Trusts Act it was created as a private trust, not a public one.
The Dalai Lama also started to publish limited financial records of its activities. However these records don’t reveal the amounts that are used for the Dalai Lama’s own personal activities, they only cover 4 years of expenditures, and are highly condensed.
From the limited records released it’s impossible for the public to tell exactly what the money is being spent on, or to what degree the Dalai Lama personally benefits from the fund. In addition, all of the funds trustees are close subordinates to the Dalai Lama and they follow his exact instructions on how the money is used.
One current trustee of “His Holiness the Dalai Lama Charitable Trust” admitted privately that the Dalai Lama uses the fund as “his personal bank account”. They explained that in Tibet there was a government treasury that belonged to the Dalai Lama and that he sees this as “the same thing”.
They admitted it was common knowledge among all the trustees that after each event overseas the Dalai Lama would be “paid his share of the profits” through the trust. They also stated the Dalai Lama would often demand “a minimum donation” before he would agree to a visit.
The key difference between whether a fund is private or charitable lies in where the money goes. A charitable trust can only use its funds to fulfill its defined charitable aims. Although it can reimburse people who work for it, it cannot use its assets to fund someone’s personal lifestyle. Since “His Holiness the Dalai Lama Charitable Trust” uses some of its funds to pay for the Dalai Lama’s personal living expenses it functions as a private fund. The fact that all of its trustees are under the direct control of the Dalai Lama also raises doubts over its authenticity.