Howrah: It was an Ali Baba moment to say the least. In a modest home at Bally in West Bengal's Howrah district, the police unearthed over Rs 20 crore in cash hidden under the floor tiles, in cupboards, inside mattresses, sofas, in the cistern in the bathroom and even inside the commode. Also found were gold jewellery worth Rs 14 lakh and post office deposits totaling Rs 58 lakh.
The cash was recovered from the home of a sub-assistant engineer of the local municipality whose monthly salary is estimated at Rs 45,000. The official, Pranab Adhikari, has been working at the civic body for the last 25 years and was in charge of sanctioning buildings, and allegedly took bribes at every opportunity.
Based on a complaint by a builder, AP Singh, a trap was laid and Mr Adhikari was caught red handed accepting a bribe of Rs 1 lakh on Friday. He managed to flee but was found soon after and taken into custody. His house was searched and Mr Adhikari and his son, Tanmay, arrested and sent to police custody till Monday.
The state's anti-corruption bureau which conducted the raids, had to use three note-counting machines for over 24 hours to calculate exactly how much money had been unearthed. Officials say Mr Adhikari could not have been working alone and suspect there was a racket in sanctioning illegal constructions. Investigations are on. Mr Adhikari has reportedly told the police, "I never imagined my house would be searched."
The name of the former chairman of the erstwhile Bally Municipality, Arunabha Lahiri, has allegedly come up in connection with the case. He has denied any links to Mr Adhikari.
State minister for agricultural marketing and Trinamool MLA from Howrah, Arup Roy said, "We used to complain about corruption during the Left regime. Clearly development funds have been stolen. It is a crime and must be punished."
A raid was conducted on the house of another civic engineer at Belur at Howrah today. No cash was recovered but sources said some important papers have been found. More raids are expected.