Around 20 contractual employees have been booked for their suspected involvement in the scam.

The entrance of the Srisailam temple in Andhra PradeshImage: Wikimedia Commons/Srinivas Chidumalla
news Crime Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 09:28

A scam has been unearthed at the Srisailam Mallikarjuna temple in Andhra’s Kurnool district, with authorities revealing that lakhs of rupees has been swindled from visitors’ donations. The temple Executive Officer KS Rama Rao told the media that there have been irregularities in the amounts collected during sale of tickets and other services, and that inquiry is being carried out.

The Srisailam temple is one of the most popular and most visited temples in Andhra Pradesh. The temple has been closed to visitors for more than two months now due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

EO Rama Rao said that the preliminary inquiry revealed that “bank employees” could be involved in the scam. “The inquiry officer has spoken to AEO (Assistant Executive Officer), and looked into records and gathered data. The difference between the actual and recorded collections has been reported. The future course of action is yet to be determined,” he told the media.

He said that the software had been tampered with to hide a few details. Calling it a ‘technical’ crime, he said that the suspects have been denying their involvement.

“Some people have been identified and their names are given to the police for further investigation. It is a criminal case,” the EO said. 

The Srisailam I Town Police have registered a case of fraud and cyber crime against around 20 outsourced staff for their suspected involvement. While early media reports claimed that nearly Rs 5 crore was swindled over the past two years, the police complaints only mention a total of Rs 1.42 crore. The employees were booked under section 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent), section 402 (assembling for purpose of committing dacoity) read with 34 (criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all) of the Indian Penal Code, and section 65 (tampering with computer source documents) and 66 (computer related offences) of IT Act. Police said that the fraud is suspected to have continued from 2017 to 2019.

State Minister for Endowments Vellampalli Srinivas has reportedly spoken to the Kurnool Superintendent of Police, instructing him to take immediate action towards recovering the swindled money.

The Endowments Department Commissioner has been asked to submit a report on the scam, as well as an internal audit report. A special inquiry officer and cyber expert are to be roped in to investigate the case. 

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With inputs from Jahnavi Reddy

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