Police question security officer of Sai Baba's ashram

Hyderabad, June 20 (IANS) Andhra Pradesh police Monday night picked up the chief security officer of late Sathya Sai Baba's ashram at Puttaparthi for questioning in connection with Rs.35 lakh seized from a man a day earlier, sources said.

Police reached the ashram and picked up security officer Pradhan for questioning, police sources said.

The development came hours after a man arrested with Rs.35 lakh and allegedly belonging to the Sathya Sai Central Trust was sent to judicial custody for a week by a local court.

The court in Anantapur district remanded Harishnanda Shetty to judicial custody till June 27.

Shetty was arrested by police early Sunday at a toll gate near Hindupur town when he was shifting the cash from Puttaparthi to Bangalore.

He told police that a driver of one of the trust members gave him the money for handing it over to a person in Bangalore.

A police officer said they were questioning two other trust employees to trace the source of the money.

Sathya Sai Baba's nephew and trust member R.J. Ratnakar Sunday clarified that the trust had nothing to do with the cash. He said in a statement that the cash belonged to 12 devotees and they would give all the details to police.

Director General of Police Aravinda Rao Monday said investigations were on in the case.

The money was seized two days after the trust opened Yajur Mandir, the residential chamber of the Sathya Sai Baba at Prashanti Nilayam ashram in Puttaparthi.

The trust Friday declared that it found Rs.11.56 crore, 98 kg gold and gold jewellery, and 307 kg of silver articles inside the chamber and these were deposited with the State Bank of India.

The arrest and recovery of money at Hindupur came amid apprehensions in a section of devotees that huge amounts of cash and jewellery were shipped out of Yajur Mandir when Sathya Sai Baba was battling for life at a hospital. He passed away April 24.