Kundapur: The Kollur Police arrested four more persons involved in the missing of gold at Kollur Shri Mookambika Temple which is one the highest revenue earning temples in Karnataka.
The arrested have been identified as Gangadhar Hegde (Temple computer assistant), Prasad Achar (Counter staff), Ganesh Poojary and Nagaraj Sherigar.
Addressing the mediapersons at the Kollur Police station on March 1, Superintendent of Police Annamalai said that Shivaram B used to work at counter number one at the temple. He was given the job of collecting gold and silver ornaments donated by devotees and storing them in a cupboard temporarily and then hand them over to the Executive Officer of the temple, since July 22, 2012. Shivaram went missing for a week since February 15, 2016. He had left without giving the keys (of the cupboard) to the Executive Officer. Executive Officer T R Uma suspected something fishy going on in regard to the responsibility given to Shivaram of taking care of the gold ornaments and lodged a complaint in the Kollur police station on February 22.
The police traced Shivaram in Kollur and took him in for questioning on February 23. He then handed over the keys to the Executive Officer. After opening the cupboard, it was found that of the 3,069 grams of gold ornaments donated by devotees, 38 ornaments weighing 2,423 grams were missing.
Gold ornaments weighing more than 3.172 kg were received by the temple in the form of donations between 2012 and 2016, SP said.
When Shivaram was questioned about the missing gold ornaments, he confessed of the involvement of other people. After getting his statement police arrested Gangadhar Hegde (Temple computer assistant), Prasad Achar (Counter staff), Ganesh Poojary and Nagaraj Sherigar and recovered gold ornaments which were missing from the cupboard and pledged with various financial institutions. Police recovered a total of 2.243 kg of ornaments from the accused. Eight more temple staff are also taken into custody for interrogation, he added.
The total gold collected as offering by the devotees is 3172 .20 grams since 2012, of which 2521.030 grams of gold ornaments are found missing. The police could recover unaccounted 138 grams of gold from the temple cupboard. While 2243.890 grams of gold ornaments were recovered in 10 banks and three cooperative societies in Kollur, Kundapura and Gangolli. The police could also recover 430 grams of gold in the process of temple search on Tuesday. The remaining 415 grams of gold are yet to be recovered, he added.
The accused are Shivaram B, the prime accused; Gangadhar Hegde, the person who managed the software formalities; Prasad Acharya, who is the colleague of Shivaram while working in shifts; Nagaraj Sherigar, who was already in suspension for his previous offence; and the fifth accused is the former security guard of the temple.
The SP said criminal activities were reported for the fourth time in the past eight years. However, the fraud was managed within the temple and it was not made public. As per the rules, the cash or gold, received from the devotees, should be reported to the temple EO by 12 noon next day. The devotees should also be given the acknowledgment for the offerings. It was observed that in many cases previously, the EO had signed the required documents acknowledging the reporting of the gold or cash, although it was not deposited. This encouraged the main accused to misuse the cash and gold ornaments, the SP explained.
Annamalai said 45 grams of gold was auctioned by the cooperative society recently. The accused would only pledge the gold ornaments, but never paid the interest of the principal amount.
The SP said eight others have been taken into custody on suspicion and the person of interest.
Besides, a report would be written on 10 people in the administrative set up for failing to discharge duties. They are charged for lethargic act of administration. Most probably, the deputy commissioner would initiate a departmental inquiry. There are also cases of civil suit. The banks and cooperative societies have been issued notices demanding clarification. The gold ornaments that were pledged are not the gold of usual shape and most of the ornaments carried some symbolic references to Goddess. The lapse on the part of EO will also be taken into consideration. Auditing has not been carried out after 2012, the SP added.