Eight Chinese nationals staying illegally in a Himachal Pradesh village have been arrested and Rs 30 lakh in cash as well as $3,000 seized from their possession, police said today.
The Chinese nationals, between the ages of 20 to 40, were on tourist visas. They were arrested Tuesday evening from Chauntra village near Jogindernagar in Mandi district, about 300 km from here.
Chauntra village is located on Mandi-Pathankot highway close to Kangra district, which is a large settlement of Tibetan exiles.
Dismissing reports that they were spies, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said their identity was still being ascertained.
"It's a matter of investigation. Their identity is yet to be ascertained. In view of the apprehensions expressed by the Dalai Lama (regarding threat to his life), we can't say off hand that they had some ulterior motive. The inquiry is on," Dhumal told reporters here.
The eight were illegally working as carpenters and painters in an under-construction palatial house-cum monastery in Chauntra, Superintendent of Police Abhishek Dullar said.
Besides Rs 30 lakh in cash and $3,000, 35,000 yuan as well as five SIM cards of Indian telecom operators were found on them.
"They had been staying illegally for quite some time. Their credentials are under investigation as they have not registered themselves with the foreigner registration office," Dullar added.
Last month, Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, had spoken of a threat to his life from Chinese agents, and said that Tibetan women were being trained to harm him.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Telegraph in Britain on May 8, the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner said he had received reports that Chinese agents had trained Tibetan women for a mission to poison him while posing as devotees seeking his blessings.
Police officials said the under-construction house belonged to a Sikkim resident.
A case under sections 379 (theft) and 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) of the Indian Penal Code has been registered. They have also been booked under the Essential Commodities Act, the Excise Act, the Income Tax Act and the Foreigners Act.