Group Founded by Beatles Guru in Dutch Money Probe

Reuters/February 1, 2003

Amsterdam -- The Dutch Central Bank will investigate whether an organization founded by Beatles guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has violated the law by issuing currency in the Netherlands, a bank spokesman said.

The Global Country of World Peace organization of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian mystic living in the small southern Dutch town of Vlodrop, issued brightly colored notes of one, five and 10 "raam" last October.

The Maharishi brought "transcendental meditation" to the West more than 40 years ago. Among his six million followers worldwide have been the Beatles, who famously traveled to India in 1968 to meditate with him.

"We will investigate what is going on. There might be a violation of certain laws," Dutch Central Bank spokesman Benno van der Zaag said, confirming a report in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. He would not comment on possible penalties.

The organization said it issued the currency to finance aid programmes in developing countries.

"We issued the raam to provide funds for development projects, such as in agriculture, in countries that have no other means," the organization's "finance minister," Benjamin Feldman, told Reuters.

He said the organization had told the Central Bank about its plan before issuing raam and "it has all been done according to regulation." Feldman said several tens of millions of raam were printed, but he could not say how much had been circulated.

Most of the notes are distributed in the Netherlands, where more than 100 shops accept raam as legal tender, and a bank in Roermond, near Vlodrop, will exchange it for 10 euros, he said.

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