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Seized money was for building memorial, says Sai Trust

Puttaparti: 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.

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.

Srinivasan 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,” Srinivasan said.

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

They 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, he 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 provision 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.

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