Seized Money Was for Building Memorial: Sai Trust

Puttaparthi (AP)
Seized Money Was for Building Memorial: Sai Trust
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 for 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.

Reddy informed the Governor about the letter written by the government to the Trust secretary, seeking details related to its functioning and financial transactions, they said.

Srinivasan said all information and cooperation sought by police as part of its investigation is being given.

He and Ratnakar have been questioned by the police as part of the investigation into the seizure of the money.

Asked about the clarification sought by the Andhra Pradesh government on the affairs of the Trust, Srinivasan said any such request would be promptly complied with.

"We will certainly submit a report to the government. There is no problem. Any request from government will be promptly attended to. About the question of monitoring by government, it is up to the government," he said.

Denying any wrongdoings in running the Trust, Srinivasan said transparency is being ensured in all transactions.

The members said the Trust has paid Rs 9.75 crore income tax though there is no demand from the IT department and that they have decided to pay necessary tax on various other taxable items.

Noting that the Trust has the financial strength and the members are quite capable of managing its affairs, Srinivasan said he saw no reason or need for the government to make a mechanism to run the Sai institutions.

"This is not an adverse comment on government. Government is supreme. They can take whatever decisions they want," he said.

Stating that Satya Sai Baba had made provisions like fixed deposits to run the various activities of the Trust, the two members said the service initiatives of the body would continue without any hindrance.

Replying to a query, Naganand said the Trust has not made any valuation of the worth of the body.

Asked about the comments of a foreign devotee about a "living will" and also that the Baba had given him certain instructions, Naganand said, "No will of the Baba has been found so far."

"The foreign devotee has so far not revealed the instructions given to him and the Trust can apply its mind if he revealed the instructions," he said.

Replying to a query, Naganand said there was no difference of opinion among the members of the Trust and the members had a meeting yesterday.

They did not take part in the press conference due to various reasons which cannot be seen as a sign of differences among the members, he said.

Srinivasan and Naganand said the Trust planned to come out with an annual report of its activities, in addition to the statutory compliances made by the body.

Asked about the fixed deposits made by the Trust, Naganand said, "It is difficult for me to tell you off the cuff about the investments made in fixed deposits in various banks. At this moment, I am not able to tell you. All the deposits are with nationalised banks. We are going to come out with an annual report".

Asked why no government representative was present during inventorying of ‘Yajur Mandir’, he said two former independent judges were present on the occasion who sat through the process of making the inventory.

Asked about reports of black money allegedly being kept in Puttaparti, he said no cash has been received by the Trustees since they have been in position and that the Trustees do not know the source of money found in the personal chambers of Baba.

To another query, they said the Trustees would fully comply with the law and that the exemptions given to the Trust by government were done in appreciation of its services.

A N Safaya, the director of Satya Sai super-speciality hospital in Puttapati, has volunteered to quit his post due to his old age and his successor has to be found in due course, they said.

Asked about the reported comments of some family members of the Baba that they faced threat to their life, they said any person having threat to life can lodge a complaint with police.

"The residents of Puttaparti should have faith in the Baba and be patient and not believe in any incorrect media reports," Srinivasan said.

Replying to a query, Srinivasan said the students of Sai institutions would be given bigger responsibilities in running the affairs of the institutions in future.

The Trust has appointed an officer to give information to the media and its members would interact more frequently with the press, Srinivasan said.
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