More treasure found in Sai Baba’s ashram (Lead)

July 19th, 2011 - 11:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, July 19 (IANS) Cash, gold and silver continues to tumble out of cupboards in the late Sathya Sai Baba’s residential quarters in Puttaparthi town of Andhra Pradesh, with valuables worth nearly Rs.75 crore being found so far in three rounds of counting, officials said.

At the completion of the counting on the second consecutive day, government officials found 1,161 kg of silver, 1.5 kg of gold and Rs.5.91 crore in cash in the building adjoining Yajur Mandir in Prashanti Nilayam, Anantpur district. The latest haul is estimated to be worth Rs.16 crore.

The items found Tuesday reportedly include a diamond necklace and a suitcase containing Rs.27 lakh in cash, said to be donated by a top cricketer.

The latest round of inventory, the third in a month, was taken up Monday and on the first day 34.5 kg of gold, 340 kg of silver and Rs.1.90 crore of cash was found. The counting resumed Tuesday morning in the presence of Sathya Sai Central Trust officials and completed around 9 p.m.

Anantapur District Collector Durgadas told reporters the jewellery, cash and other valuables were found in six rooms, which were not opened in the earlier rounds.

The officials found gold bangles, earrings, silver mugs, silver cookware, plates, spoons, puja material, expensive saris, shirts, trousers and other gift items.

The officials believe there might be more rooms and closets which were not searched earlier and might yield more treasure.

The third haul is likely to raise further doubts about the functioning of the trust, which manages the affairs of the vast spiritual empire of Sathya Sai Baba.

The trust, which had opened the spiritual guru’s personal chamber June 16 for the first time after his demise April 24, found Rs.11.56 crore, 98 kg gold and gold jewellery, and 307 kg silver and silver articles.

It also claimed to have completed the inventory of all the articles.

However, two days later seizure of Rs.35 lakh by police while being transported from Prashanti Nilayam to Bangalore triggered a huge row with a section of devotees alleging that the trust members were involved in financial irregularities and that huge amounts of cash and gold were shipped out of Baba’s ashram.

Though the trust clarified that the cash was donated by a group of devotees for building Baba’s “samadhi”, police have still not solved the mystery behind the unaccounted money.

Following the row over the seized cash and the allegations by devotees, the government stepped in. The district officials inspected the rooms adjoining Yajur Mandir July 3 and found silver and gold articles worth over Rs.76 lakh.

The second and third round of valuables have proved wrong the initial claims by the trust that there were no more rooms left to be inspected, say officials.

In the three rounds of inventory so far, nearly Rs.75 crore worth gold, silver and cash has been recovered from Yajur Mandir and adjoining rooms, say officials.

More cash, gold and silver is being found at a time when an expert committee appointed by the state government is evaluating the report submitted by the trust July 10.

The report was submitted by the trust after the government issued a notice, asking it to provide all details of its finances, activities, revenues, background of the trust members and officials and future plans.

After evaluating the report, the government is likely to take a decision on whether to take over the trust or set up a mechanism to monitor the trust in view of the demands made by a section of devotees.

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