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Puttaparthi: Are Sai Baba trustees hiding something?

June 19, 2011 20:04 IST

The police have managed to make some inroads into the case in which Rs 35.5 lakh went missing from the Sathya Sai Baba Central Trust. Earlier during the day, the Anantpur police had claimed that the money was being taken from Puttaparthy to Bangalore to be handed over to an unknown person.

A crucial player in this incident, a man by the name Shekhar was arrested late last night by the police. Sources said that he was trying to leave Puttaparthy by bus when he was arrested.

Shekhar who was then interrogated by the police started off by telling the cops that he was the driver of a very senior member of the Sathya Sai Baba Central Trust.

He said that the case of the missing cash dates back to Friday when the trust members had opened up the locker at the Yajur Mandir, following which they found 11.56 crore which was of course later deposited at the State Bank of India.

It was during this time that Shekar got a call from the personal secretary of the trust member. Shekar said that the the secretary told him to bring the car close to where the money was being counted.

"I was asked to park it in such a manner so that the car could be moved in a hurry. I was also advised to keep the boot of the car open. Once the counting was complete, a bag of cash was placed in the boot, and the secretary asked me to shut the boot," he said.

"Then the trust member sat inside the car and we drove for some time after leaving the Ashram at Puttaparthi. Then another man, one Shetty, met us and I was told to hand over that money to him. I do not know what transpired after that," Shekar also said during his questioning to the police.

The police are looking for Shetty.

Shekar's interrogation puts a question mark on the statement made by R J Ratnakar who is the nephew of Sathya Sai Baba and also a member of the trust. Ratnakar had claimed that the money had nothing to do with the trust.

Police sources say that as per the statements that they have got it appears that the money belonged to the trust. It is a known fact that a person in Bangalore has been entrusted with the job of constructing Sathya Sai Baba's Samadhi, and some leads indicate that the money was being handed over in this regard.

However it appears to be fishy the manner in which the money had been transported and Shekar's statement also indicates the same.

There is expected to be a furor over this issue with several donors and devotees demanding a more transparent manner in functioning after the Baba's death. Some devotees had also allayed fears of the manner in which the trust would function in future.

However, trust members claim that there is nothing to worry and things are fine and certain things have been blown out of proportion.

"The manner in which the entire money was taken out and handed over was done in a transparent manner, and none can cast aspersions on that," claimed a trust member.

Meanwhile, the Ananthpur police have launched a massive manhunt for Shetty. Once this arrest is made and the rest of the players interrogated, we can hope that the complete picture regarding this incident will come out.

Vicky Nanjappa