Giving a completely new dimension to the entire controversy that dogged the temple town of Puttaparthi, Ratnakar -- a trustee in the Sri Satya Sai Central Trust and Sai Baba's nephew -- has said that the Rs 35.5 lakh, which was seized in transit by the police, did not belong to the trust.
On being questioned about this money, Ratnakar said the money belonged to the devotees. The money was being legitimately transported to be handed over to a builder who is undertaking the work on Baba's Samadhi.
The trust has been mired in controversy ever since the death of Satya Sai Baba recently.
Almost a month after his death, the trustees entered Baba's residence -- the Yajur Mandir -- and opened his locker.
In the locker, they found Rs 11.5 crore in cash apart from gold and silver articles. All this was deposited and the trust issued a statement in which it was said that all the articles, including the cash, were properly valuated and deposited in the bank in the presence of officials of both the bank and the Income Tax department.
However, a couple of days later the police arrested three persons when they were transporting cash of Rs 35.5 lakh from the Ashram.
During the interrogation, one of the persons identified as Shekhar said that he was specifically told to park the car in the Ashram and keep the boot of the vehicle open. The cash was then loaded into the car and was supposed to be handed over to a person who is from Bengaluru. However, the police managed to intercept them and arrest these persons apart from seizing the cash.
The devotees of Baba, who were upset with this incident, staged a protest march on Saturday seeking a change of the members of the trust.
There are several unanswered questions pertaining to this incident.
The incident is a week-old and the question that is being asked is why was the Trust quiet about this new angle for so long.
Secondly, if the money belonged to the devotees and it was a legitimate transaction why was the money being transported out of Puttaparthi in a hurry.
The third aspect is the interrogation of the driver. Going by his statements, it indicates that it was a hush-hush operation. Moreover, the deputy superintendent of the area, K Krishna too had said that there is no doubt that the money was being taken from the Ashram.
The interrogation of the trustees is expected to throw more light on the entire episode.