Bangalore/Puttaparthi: A day after Rs 35 lakh cash was seized from a Qualis vehicle at Kodikonda checkpost, the Anantapur police on Sunday morning recovered at least Rs 5 crore stuffed in two gunny bags from a government-owned Puttaparthi-Bangalore. Police detained two Tamil Nadu-based men and took them to a secret location in Anantapur for interrogation.
The two were trying to take away the cash in the guise of passengers. Sources said the money was seized at Kothacheruvu, 12 km from Puttaparthi and 145 km from Bangalore.
"Acting on a tip-off, police stopped the Bangalore-bound bus at Kothacheruvu and recovered the gunny bags loaded with currency notes. Police detained two men and took them to Anantapur along with the money," sources said. Police suspect that the cash, said to be anywhere between Rs 5 crore and Rs 10 crore, was being brought from Puttaparthi.
The twin cash recovery has only added fuel to rumours that valuables are being discreetly shifted from Sathya Sai Baba's abode, an exercise that is said to have started soon after Baba was hospitalised. Also, the unaccounted cash points to a deep-rooted network of a hawala racket thriving in Puttaparthi, sources in the town reported.
Anantapur district SP Shahnawaz Qasim on Sunday said legal notices were being served to the key persons mentioned by those nabbed while shifting out the money from Prasanthi Nilayam. "Those who were caught have revealed names of people in the Trust. We will interrogate them," he said. Nobody has so far come forward to claim the cash. "We have informed the I-T department and will produce the cash before court on Monday," the SP said.
He said three persons __ Harishnanda Shetty, Sohan Shetty and driver Sekhar __ were arrested in connection with the recovery of Rs 35 lakh from the Sai Trust vehicle at Kodikonda checkpost on Karnataka border late on Saturday night. The cash was reportedly given by Trust member V Srinivasan and R J Ratnakar at Santhi Bhavan to Srinivasan's driver Sekhar, who handed it over to Harishnanda Shetty, an engineer involved in the construction of Baba's Maha Samadhi, to hand it over to an anonymous person in Bangalore. The cash was recovered from a Qualis (registration No. HP 66-0999). Harishnanda Shetty was earlier a site engineer working in Shankar Narayana Construction Ltd in Bangalore. He belongs to Kotakkam village near Udupi in Karnataka. Sources said when police grilled Harishnanda Shetty, Sohan Shetty, another engineer, and Sekhar, the names of Srinivasan and Ratnakar came to light.
According to sources, Rs 35 lakh was kept aside in Yajur Mandir during the inventory session. It was later kept at Shanthi Bhavan with the help of chief security officer Pradhan of Sai Central Trust. "Srinivasan and Ratnakar called up Sekhar and entrusted him the task of shifting Rs 35 lakh to the anonymous person in Bangalore. Sekhar gave the money to Sohan Shetty and Harishanada Shetty," sources said.
The three took two different vehicles to Bangalore and police stopped the two vehicles, but found the unaccounted cash in Harish's vehicle on the Karnataka border under Chilamanthur police station limits.
The mystery over the treasure trove inside Sai Baba's personal chambers in Yajur Mandir was unravelled on Friday with the disclosure that it contained 98 kg of gold, 307 kg of silver apart from Rs 11.56 crore in cash. The Yajur Mandir had remained closed ever since Baba was hospitalised on March 28. He had passed away on April 24.