Police summons two members of Sathya Sai trust


Hyderabad: In a new twist to the case of transporting a huge amount of money from late spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram in Puttaparthi, two members of the Sathya Sai Central Trust have been summoned to appear before the police.

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Intensifying the probe into the intercept of Rs.35.5 lakh, Anantapur district Superintendent of Police Shahnawaz Qasim Wednesday summoned V. Srinivasan and R.J. Ratnakar to appear before him in three days, police sources said.

This is the first time in the history of the powerful trust that police have summoned its members.

The development came a day after police questioned the chief security officer of Prashanti Nilayam. Pradhan, who was picked up by police June 20 and was let off the next day after questioning, said that he was not present at the ashram June 19 evening when the unaccounted money was taken out.

Police officers said they would question the trust members about the source of the money, which was intercepted near Hindupur while being transported to Bangalore by a man named Harishnana Shetty in a car.

Two more people, Chandrasekhar Murthy and Sohan Shetty, were also arrested later. All the three are in judicial custody till June 27.

The seizure of the cash, two days after the opening of Sathya Sai Baba’s residential quarters Yajur Mandir yielded a treasure trove, triggered speculation that the inventory of the gold, cash and other items was not complete.

The trust had declared June 17 that it found Rs.11.56 crore, 98 kg gold and gold jewellery, 307 kg silver articles inside which was deposited with the State Bank of India (SBI).

Police suspect that huge amounts of cash, gold, silver and precious stones could still be concealed in Yajur Mandir. The personal chamber of the spiritual leader, who passed away April 24, is believed to have false ceilings, false floors and rooms concealed behind almirahs.

Nobody except Sathya Sai Baba’s personal caregiver Satyajit had access to Yajur Mandir, especially the first floor where Baba used to live.

The police investigations also revealed that the car seized June 19 had made four trips between Puttaparthi and Bangalore since June 16, when the locks of Yajur Mandir were opened.

The mystery surrounding the seized money deepened after Ratnakar, who is also nephew of Sathya Sai Baba, initially said the trust had nothing to do with the seized cash.

He later said it belonged to 12 devotees and they would claim the money through due legal process.

Some trust officials are now claiming that the money was meant to be given to a contractor in Bangalore to build ‘samadhi’ of Sathya Sai Baba at Prashanti Nilayam.

With the seizure of cash, a section of devotees have reiterated their allegations that huge amounts of money and valuables were shipped out of Prashanti Nilayam while Sathya Sai Baba was battling for his life at a hospital since March 28.

Some family members of Sathya Sai Baba have also made serious allegations against the trust members.

They accused the trust of not taking care of the spiritual leader properly when he was hospitalised. They also said the trust was not taking devotees into confidence while taking major decisions.

The state’s main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the allegations against the trust.