Call For Media and Government Investigation

of Sathya Sai Baba And his worldwide cult, the Sathya Sai Organization

Sathya Sai Trust In Vast Treasure Scandals: Secret Temple, Van, and Bus Stashes

Posted by Barry Pittard on June 20, 2011

If due diligence occurs, Andhra Pradesh police investigations will need to pursue, at a simple count, at least four lots of alleged Sai Trust  illicit treasury violations. Up to the time of Sathya Sai Baba’s death, there were previous reports of at least one truckload of treasure making its way out of Puttaparthi

In addition to the vast treasure trove discovered secreted within Sathya Sai Baba’s temple-palace last Thursday, and the van intercepted with huge amounts of treasure, there now come reports (see Indian press readings below) of yet more treasure being spirited out of Puttaparthi, this time by Sai Baba functionaries on a Bangalore bound bus:

“A man arrested with Rs.35 lakh allegedly belonging to the Sathya Sai Central Trust was Monday sent to judicial custody for a week.

A local court in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur district remanded Harishnanda Shetty in custody till June 27. Police presented the arrested man along with the money recovered from him before the magistrate.

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

He reportedly told the police that a driver of one of the trust members gave him the money for handing it over to a person in Bangalore.” (Remainder of report, below)

But, then, the Sai Central Trust denies any irregularity, just as it denied report of other clandestine movement of treasure just before Sathya Sai Baba died on 24 April. I referred to this earlier, all too easily-forgotten report in my post of yesterday:  Reports of Sathya Sai Central Trust Van Laden With Treasure Seized By Andhra State Police.

A prominent spokesman for Trustees and the Council of Management, Venu Srinivasan stated:

“In the light of baseless, irresponsible and false accusations of defalcation of gold, valuable artefacts and even money, it is emphatically stated that the accusations are wholly untrue and it is believed these have been engineered by certain vested interests”. (Economic Times article:  ‘Baba had no successor in mind: Trustees, election for Sai Trust chairman next week’, Apr 28, 2011, 09.53pm IST).

In a very long Press Release, the Trustees and the Council of Management of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust on April 28, 2011 (four days after Sai Baba’s death) stated precisely the same.

But this very same Srinivasan is now being implicated in more recent events concerning the spiriting of vast amounts of cash and valuables out of Puttaparthi. An Indian informant who has sent reliable information at other times, has just written to Robert Priddy and myself:

… “perhaps for the first time EVER, cases have been filed, and the Andhra police has stated to the press they have specific details and are going to interrogate Sathya Sai trust members !! My sources inform me that Venu Srinivasan, Ratnakar and Bhagwati are the ones named. It is quite open knowledge that PN Bhagwati used his official car given by the Government (as Retd Chief justice) to transport illegal cash (the one that escaped  on Friday)”.

(For an exposure series on Bhagwati, the former Chief Justice of India, another figure who raises some hackles in both diplomatic and legal circles – good media investigators can easily validate this assertion , see Further Reading, below).

But why not look further down the years, too? Does a fascination for hoarding millions in various currencies and mounting up vast stashes of gold, precious stones and other valuables just – what shall I say? – materialise out of nowhere, and all of a sudden. Surely, there are some long antecedents.

One issue comes to my mind quickly. It stems back to 2001. Hari Sampath, formerly a member of Sathya Sai Baba’s Security and Intelligence Wing at Puttaparthi, citing reasons of personal conscience at what he saw to be corruption at the heart of Sathya Sai Baba’s religious empire, took out a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) suit against Sathya Sai Baba. The high-profile advocate Kamini Jaiswal took his case pro bono.

I have shown documents in this case to outstanding legal counsel in various democratic jurisdictions, and the repeated reaction was one of abhorrence for the summary manner in which the judges dealt with the case. An expression used was ‘Kangaroo Court’.  Let anyone read, in part, an Indian lawyer’s notes for the case. See the article:  Sai Baba protected by the Supreme Court of India.

They will get their own sense of the corruption of some judges at the epicenter of (so-called) Indian Justice.

Anyone accustomed to democratic court procedures can hardly believe, as one reads the lawyer’s notes in transcript, that judges could be so blatant. See, Record of Proceedings document of Hari Sampath’s 2001 case against Sai Baba in the Supreme Court of India.  See how the case is scuppered by Judges G.B. Patnaik and R.C. Lahoti with the concurrence of then Chief Justice Dr A.S. Anand. Prompted by concern for her client if he were to proceed in and Andhra Pradesh court – the proposed remedy of the judges, Kamini Jaiswal, a senior advocate in the Indian Supreme Court, strongly contested the three judges’ direction to pursue matters in an Andhra Pradesh court. 

Sathya Sai Baba Disposed Judges                                                                                                                                Sathya Sai Baba Disposed Judges

Soon after the three judges’ determinations, which have more than raised eyebrows among some most distinguished lawyers of our acquaintance, the Supreme Court of India deleted the public documentation. In vain, even the British Ambassador to India tried to obtain confirmation of the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Sampath PIL. The Court denied all knowledge of any record of the case. Those of us who wrote accounts were savagely attacked as liars, notably by Gerald Moreno, who has long been closely allied with certain leaders around the late Sathya Sai Baba, and visciously and repeatedly libeled many former devotees, including bringing sore distress to children of prominent former devotee leaders. See: Sathya Sai Organisation defended by proxy.

Nonetheless, Kamini Jaiswal’s associate kept careful notes, and there exists a copy of the formal rejection. But, fortunately, we have been able to produce documentary proof, too powerful to be denied. See the scan, below, of the Hari Sampath writ Petition to the Supreme Court of India.

Let us now connect this matter with my remarks at the outset. That is to say – if doing their job properly, police and media investigators – and indeed genuinely concerned Sai Baba devotees themselves – are going to have to consider the long view. Namely, to look, as well, at earlier allegations of gross and extremely improper financial dealings on the grand scale.

For example, did the poor Satyajit, Sathya Sai Baba’s last boyfriend – unseen by anyone – have to carry handfuls, and armfuls, and, donkey-like, shoulder loads of millions of dollars and other currencies, and jewels, and many other valuables up into their many hiding places on the second floor of Sathya Sai Baba opulent temple-palace? 

If not, then who were the other beasts of burden? Were there no adjutants in acts of money-laundering, and black marketeering? Were there no recipients of bribery? Were there no witnesses among the ‘form boys’ (that is, homosexual consorts, as had been the case down many years) who were allowed to sleep in Sai Bab’s bedroom? Of the heaps of Nike shoes, watches, etc., one whom we have sound reasons to accept was one of Sathya Sai Baba’s many ex ‘form boys’, has just written:

“These were given as presents to his chosen form boys. I have seen such cameras with the likes of Raman Mehta, Arjun Bannerjee etc. I remember  once when we were inside the Poornachandra Hall, a prominent American doctor had got lots of such stuff – he had arrived few hours earlier with cameras, watches etc. as donations to Sai Baba, who had then joked that he allowed good bhaktas to get things like these in order to save them harassment from the income tax officials. Even I was presented with currency worth rs 1500/-”

If there were strong prohibitions against even the most senior Sai Baba aides going into parts of his apartments, why were they not allowed to go there?

Scan of Hari Sampath PIL to Supreme Court of India. Proof of what the Court denied record of when requested by the British Ambassador to India

Inter alia, in his written plea to the court, the applicant, Hari Sampath, wrote:

There have been considerable reports in many sections of the media for several years that the Sai baba trusts worldwide were in fact being used in many money laundering operations by several politicians, cutting across party lines. The status enjoyed by these trusts as well as avenues of easily getting the money from abroad into Sai Baba’s Indian trusts, lend themselves very comfortably for such illegal scams of staggering proportions, running into thousands of Crores of rupees.  

Also, as several thousands of Sai Baba’s followers from all over the world simply mail him cash in dollars, pounds, French francs, Swiss Francs etc, usually a few hundreds at a time, all these cash donations are turned over to the bank by Sai Baba’s organization, and deposited in the Trust accounts. This situation is perfectly exploited by Sai Baba and his helpers, and all they have to do to convert “black money” into white money is by arranging to mail thousands of such “mails from devotees” with cash in them, and all of it gets converted to official money at the banks. No questions are ever asked who sent them, and how much, as all these banks are dependent on Sai Baba trust and its accounts running into hundreds of Crores of rupees. 

Sai Baba Central Trust members like Indulal Shah, (who is a Chartered accountant from Bombay and has been with Sai Baba for 40 years, Kulwant Rai, the Industrialist from Delhi, GK Raman, Managing director of Sundaram Finance, Hejmadi, and so many others are all aware of what has been happening for so many years, and all of them stand to gain and to profit from the Sai Baba trusts.

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The Economic Times

20 Jun, 2011, 12.57PM IST,

Man held with Sai trust cash sent to custody

HYDERABAD: A man arrested with Rs.35 lakh allegedly belonging to the Sathya Sai Central Trust was Monday sent to judicial custody for a week.

A local court in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur district remanded Harishnanda Shetty in custody till June 27. Police presented the arrested man along with the money recovered from him before the magistrate.

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

He reportedly told the 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 trust employees to trace the source of the money.

Sathay Sai Baba’s nephew and trust member R.J. Ratnakar Sunday clarified that the trust has nothing to do with the cash. He said in a statement that the cash belongs to 12 devotees and they would give all the details to the 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 Sathay Sai Baba at Prashanti Nilayam 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 have been 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.

Bangalore/Puttaparthi: A day after Rs 35 lakh cash was seized from a Qualis vehicle at Kodikonda checkpost, the Anantapur on Sunday morning recovered at least Rs 5 crore stuffed in two gunny bags from a government-owned Puttaparthi-Bangalore Volvo bus. Police detained two Tamil Nadu-based men and took them to a secret location in Anantapur for interrogation.

The two were trying to take away the cash in the guise of passengers. Sources said the money was seized at Kothacheruvu, 12 km from Puttaparthi and 145 km from Bangalore.

“Acting on a tip-off, police stopped the Bangalore-bound bus at Kothacheruvu and recovered the gunny bags loaded with currency notes. Police detained two men and took them to Anantapur along with the money,” sources said. Police suspect that the cash, said to be anywhere between Rs 5 crore and Rs 10 crore, was being brought from Puttaparthi.

The twin cash recovery has only added fuel to rumours that valuables are being discreetly shifted from Sathya Sai Baba’s abode, an exercise that is said to have started soon after Baba was hospitalised. Also, the unaccounted cash points to a deep-rooted network of a hawala racket thriving in Puttaparthi, sources in the town reported.

Anantapur district SP Shahnawaz Qasim on Sunday said legal notices were being served to the key persons mentioned by those nabbed while shifting out the money from Prasanthi Nilayam. “Those who were caught have revealed names of people in the Trust. We will interrogate them,” he said. Nobody has so far come forward to claim the cash. “We have informed the I-T department and will produce the cash before court on Monday,” the SP said.

He said three persons __ Harishnanda Shetty, Sohan Shetty and driver Sekhar __ were arrested in connection with the recovery of Rs 35 lakh from the Sai Trust vehicle at Kodikonda checkpost on Karnataka border late on Saturday night. The cash was reportedly given by Trust member V Srinivasan and R J Ratnakar at Santhi Bhavan to Srinivasan’s driver Sekhar, who handed it over to Harishnanda Shetty, an engineer involved in the construction of Baba’s Maha Samadhi, to hand it over to an anonymous person in Bangalore. The cash was recovered from a Qualis (registration No. HP 66-0999). Harishnanda Shetty was earlier a site engineer working in Shankar Narayana Construction Ltd in Bangalore. He belongs to Kotakkam village near Udupi in Karnataka. Sources said when police grilled Harishnanda Shetty, Sohan Shetty, another engineer, and Sekhar, the names of Srinivasan and Ratnakar came to light.

According to sources, Rs 35 lakh was kept aside in Yajur Mandir during the inventory session. It was later kept at Shanthi Bhavan with the help of chief security officer Pradhan of Sai Central Trust. “Srinivasan and Ratnakar called up Sekhar and entrusted him the task of shifting Rs 35 lakh to the anonymous person in Bangalore. Sekhar gave the money to Sohan Shetty and Harishanada Shetty,” sources said.

The three took two different vehicles to Bangalore and police stopped the two vehicles, but found the unaccounted cash in Harish’s vehicle on the Karnataka border under Chilamanthur police station limits.

The mystery over the treasure trove inside Sai Baba’s personal chambers in Yajur Mandir was unravelled on Friday with the disclosure that it contained 98 kg of gold, 307 kg of silver apart from Rs 11.56 crore in cash. The Yajur Mandir had remained closed ever since Baba was hospitalised on March 28. He had passed away on April 24.

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TIMES OF INDIA. Hyderabad

Sai Trust member denies charges

TNN | Jun 20, 2011, 12.12am IST

PUTTAPARTHI: Sai Baba’s nephew and Sai Central Trust member R J Rathnakar on Sunday said the Trust has no connection to the cash seized by the police near Kodikonda checkpost. He said that the cash belonged to 12 Baba devotees and that they would claim in the court of law by producing the necessary documents. He also said the Qualis vehicle did not belong to the Trust.While reiterating that the Trust followed the system of accounting in letter and spirit, Rathnakar said they never transacted in unaccounted money and all the transactions were effected only through cheques.In the morning, Baba’s caregiver Satyajit, Rathnakar and senior Trust member S V Giri opened Yajur Mandir and went inside. Their visit assumes significance as it came immediately after Saturday night’s seizure of Rs 35 lakh.Meanwhile, rumours were doing the rounds that the protocol vehicle of Trust member and ex-CJI P N Bhagawati was also involved in the illegal shifting of money from Prasanthi Nilayam. District officials said Bhagawati was given the government vehicle as per protocol since he was the former chief justice of India.

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Further Reading

The money behind Sai Baba (by Hari Sampath)

The Sathya Sai Baba set-up: How it works, by Hari Sampath

Sathya Sai Organisation defended by proxy

Ex-Chief Justice of India, P.N. Bhagwati Exposed

Ex-Chief Justice of India: Sathya Sai Baba “dictated my every single judgement”Posted by Barry Pittard on May 4, 2011

On Sathya Sai Baba: Times of India, Ex-Chief Justice Interview. What Judge Would So Opine?

Posted by Barry Pittard on May 1, 2011

Indian Ex-Chief Justice: “Wild, Reckless Claims” about Sathya Sai Baba

Posted by Barry Pittard on April 29, 2011

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Call for media and government investigation of Sathya Sai Baba

General

Excerpt From Public Petition (and introduction)

Public Petition For Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization

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