A DISPUTE over fees for sculpting religious statues in Scotland led to the murder of a prominent Buddhist monk, a trial in China is expected to hear today.

Choje Akong Rinpoche, 73, a co-founder of Kagyu Samye Ling centre in Eskdalemuir, Dumfries and Galloway, was stabbed to death at his home in Chengdu in southwest China in October last year, along with his nephew Loga and his assistant Lama Chime Wangyal.

In a trial for intentional homicide, due to begin today, prosecutors will say that defendant Tudeng Gusha claimed he was owed money for sculpting work he carried out at Kagyu Samye Ling and another Buddhist centre in London, and that immediately before the murder, he had demanded money from Akong Rinpoche.

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The prosecution will claim that Gusha, when working in Scotland and London, had agreed he would be paid only expenses for the sculpting work.

Gusha's nephew, Ciren Banyue, will also be tried for intentional homicide while another family member, Geni Jiangcuo, is to be tried for harbouring a criminal.

It is understood that Gusha and Banyue could face the death penalty if convicted. A delegation from Kagyu Samye Ling, the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West, is expected to attend the trial.

It is believed that Gusha had lived in the UK for five years before returning to China around three years ago, and had made religious statues for the centres in Eskdalemuir and London.

Following the murder, Akong Rinpoche's brother, Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, abbot of the Kagyu Samye Ling monastery, claimed that Gusha had always been treated "with kindness".

"When he was with us in the UK we supported his living expenses as agreed in writing, and there was never any dispute about that," he said last year.

"We are therefore very shocked that two years later he came demanding money, knowing that Akong Rinpoche was about to send funds to the Rokpa charitable projects in the Tibetan areas of China."