Under cloud over allegations of wrongdoing, Sri Satya Sai Central Trust today said the over Rs 35 lakh recently seized by police belonged to devotees and the money was given to a consultant for construction of a memorial of Sai Baba.
The Trust said it had no connection with the funds seized by Andhra Pradesh police on the night of June 20 from a vehicle at Kodikonda checkpost under Chilamanthur police station bordering Karnataka.
A group of devotees had approached Trust member R Ratnakar, a nephew of Sai Baba, to contribute funds for the construction of 'Maha Samadhi' of the spiritual guru and they had given over Rs 35 lakh for the purpose, Trust member V Srinivasan said, maintaining that the Trust affairs are being conducted transparently.
The money was handed over to a Bangalore-based project consultant for construction of the 'Maha Samadhi' on June 18 and the car of the consultant was stopped en route to Bangalore by police and the money seized, he said.
The project consultant has filed a letter with the police explaining that the funds had been given to them and that the money should be released for carrying out the construction work, he said.
"The donors, who gave this money, have also filed affidavits in the court giving their bank numbers and saying that they have given the funds to Ratnakar for 'Maha Samadhi’ work. The Trust has no connection with these funds," he said.
Srinivasan and another Trust member Naganand were addressing a press conference here in the wake of allegations of irregularities in the affairs of the Trust.
Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy is understood to have briefed governor E S L Narasimhan about the government action with regard to the Trust in the wake of alleged financial irregularities.
The chief minister drove to the Raj Bhavan in Hyderabad for an unscheduled meeting with the Governor, after paying floral tributes to former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao at PV Ghat here on his 91st birth anniversary, officials said.
Srinivasan said that Yajurveda Mandiram in Puttaparthy Prashanthi Nilayam, the personal abode of departed Sathya Sai Baba was opened on June 16 and detailed inventory of cash, valuables was taken, which was duly signed and deposited with the State Bank of India for safe-keeping.
The board of trustees met yesterday and took decision to pay income tax on the value of inventory obtained. Rs 9.75 crore was paid towards income tax and the balance amount, if any, will be paid after receipt of detail valuation report of jewellery, he said.
The Andhra Pradesh government on Monday had issued an ultimatum to the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, the administrative body that manages the Rs 40,000 crore empire of the late spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba. The Trust has been asked to furnish information on its activities, revenues and assets within 10 days.
"In the light of the doubts expressed on certain aspects of the functioning of the Trust, it was felt that it was essential to bring out the facts transparently for public knowledge," said a government press release.
Trust secretary K Chakravarthi, a former IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, was asked to provide details about the late spiritual guru's vast empire — the Trust's organisational set up, list of members, their addresses, background, contact numbers and other relevant details, senior officials said.
The government also wanted details on the Trust's fixed assets, major sources of funds, broad expenditure heads and annual accounts for the last five years.
Chakravarthi could not be reached for his reactions on the government move.
The development comes two months after the demise of the spiritual guru on April 24. The trust has been facing a series of allegations since his death.
The seizure of Rs 35.5 lakh — that was being transported out of the Prashanti Nilayam Ashram — on June 19 prompted the state government to intervene.
The driver of the car, Shekhar, told police that two Trust members, RJ Ratnakar and V Srinivasan, had directed him to take the cash to Bangalore.
While the police interrogated Ratnakar, who is Sai Baba's nephew, on Saturday, Srinivasan was grilled in Puttaparthi town on Monday.
Srinivasan met Trust officials before proceeding to the Sathya Sai deemed university building, where the policemen were waiting for him. The questioning lasted more than six hours.