No one who knows India’s systemic corruption and – more particularly – the undercover and criminal manipulations at Sai Baba’s ashrams and their political supporters through the years – should have any illusions that the Sathya Sai Central Trust is above using bribery to cover up the wrongdoings in which they have long been known to be engaged under the direction of Sathya Sai Baba, their cheque-signing Chairman. It is apparent that they have stepped up their disinformation and mutual warfare now that the big cat is away. Nor can one rule out that goondas sent by Trustees can be a life threat to Sai Baba’s remaining family members, as the Times report makes clear enough (see scan on right). The Times’ article is so revealing that the remainder is reproduced here in case anyone should miss it (small blue text):-
Sources said several family members and relatives are livid at the way the inventory was carried out inside Yajur Mandir. Pointing their fingers at senior Trust member V Srinivasan, they alleged that he was responsible for barring their entry into Yajur Mandir. Shravan, brother of Chetana, demanded a fair probe into the cash seizure muddle and the alleged shifting of valuables and cash from Yajur Mandir. “Police should conduct a thorough probe in this regard as lakh of Baba’s devotees are hurt by the series of allegations involving the Trust,” he said.
The police maintained tight vigil at Yajur Mandir. A senior police official told TOI that “we are not allowing any outsider into the Yajur Mandir ever since the cash seizure issue came out.” Meanwhile, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust went on the defensive on Monday after the Anantapur district police asserted that they had evidence to prove that the cash seized from three persons on Saturday belonged to the Trust. The three arrested have been sent to judicial remand.
Comment: It should not be these hapless and helpless individuals suffering in police custody, but Rathnakar and other trustees who are strongly suspected of being involved and ‘masterminds’. But events until now show that the power-hungry Rathnakar will ride rough shod over any in his way – even his own relatives – and he will certainly be doing damage-limitation by trying to use influence – and probably bribes – to make the police change their tune. See scan on left confirming VVIP pressures on police.
Pooh-poohing the claims of Trust member R J Rathnakar that the seized cash of Rs 35 lakh belonged to 12 Baba devotees, Penukonda DSP Kolar Krishna asserted that the police had clinching proof to link the money trail to the Trust. “Till now, nobody has approached us to claim the unaccounted money,” he told TOI. Rathnakar on Sunday said the devotees would `hand over’ the necessary documents to take back the money from the court where it has been deposited after it was seized from a vehicle near Karnataka border on Saturday night.
Police on Monday produced senior Trust member V Srinivasan’s car driver Chandra Sekhar alias Sekhar, who was detained from a KSRTC bus on Sunday, and engineer Sohan Shetty before the additional judicial first class magistrate court in Hindupur. Magistrate Kamakar Reddy ordered judicial remand for the duo till June 23. Another suspect and site engineer of Baba’s Maha samadhi, Harish Nanda Shetty, was sent to judicial custody till June 27. The court, however, postponed hearing on the bail plea of the three suspects to Tuesday. Several employees of Prasanthi Nilayam and Rathnakar’s close aides were present at the court.
Sources said police would interrogate Pradhan, chief security officer of Yajur Mandir where Baba resided, Srinivasan’s personal assistant Venkatesh and a car driver of the Trust in connection with the cash seizures. “We do not rule out questioning Trust members like Srinivasan and Rathnakar also in connection with the case,” a senior police officer told TOI. He further said: “Though the money matters are dealt by the income tax department, we would take the case to its logical conclusion.” Srinivasan __ a top industrialist from Chennai __ whose driver was caught by the police is silent on the matter.
In the meanwhile, an unsigned letter was also sent to the Hindupur court premises stating the money belonged to 12 devotees. Sources said this was not the first time that vehicles from Puttaparthi were intercepted while carrying cash and gold. “When Sai Baba was alive, the higher-ups used to call the local police and instruct them not to `touch’ the Trust vehicles,” police sources averred.
“Even if we assume that Sai Baba had received gifts in the form of cash and gold, the huge amount found in Yajur Mandir tantamounts to the fact that the Trust affairs are not transparent,” remarked a senior police officer. Gold, silver, cash and artefacts valued at about Rs 35 crore were found from the mandir recently.
Sources informally let it be known that V. Srinivasan, Ratnakar and Bhagwati are the ones named by police to be questioned. It is quite open knowledge that P.N. Bhagwati used his official car given by the Government ( as Retd Chief justice) to transport illegal cash (the one that escaped on Friday) and further that the Enforcement Directorate is taking a close look at the Puttaparthi affairs, and may take over the case if it finds reasonable grounds of large-scale money laundering.
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