Officers needed three counting machines to count the cash (photo: HT)
Pranab Adhikari, a sub-assistant engineer in charge of approving building plans in Howrah, West Bengal, was caught red-handed accepting a bribe on Friday. When officers of the anti-corruption branch searched his modest home at Bally, they found a staggering Rs. 20 crore ($3 million) in cash hidden under the floor tiles, in cupboards, inside mattresses, sofas, and even inside the commode in the bathroom.
Tight wads of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes were found wrapped in plastic packets. Also found were gold jewellery and biscuits weighing 2 kg, worth Rs. 14 lakh ($21,400).
According to the Hindustan Times, Adhikari’s monthly pay is around Rs 45,000 ($688), so the money he allegedly stashed away equals 371 years’ pay.
The amount of cash shocked even the police officers who searched his residence. They reportedly needed three counting machines to count the money that crept out of “every brick in the house”, said a member of the raid team.
"We kept counting through the night,” said Ramphal Pawar, additional director general of the anti-corruption branch.
Adhikari has been working at the local municipality for the last 25 years and was in charge of sanctioning buildings.
The opportunity to make quick money was available in the form of closed factory sites and old houses, which became prime targets for developers.
“Working since 1995, Adhikari formed the nexus and made good of the building boom in Howrah, Kolkata’s twin city,” an official told Hindustan Times.
He alleged that Adhikari was the man to go to for a sanctioned building plan, if it involved illegally-grabbed land of closed factories and old buildings or filled-up water bodies.
This points to a nexus between politicians, municipality officers, land sharks and developers. Adhikari is suspected to be the custodian of the graft money, which was to be distributed to the other members of the racket.
But the 45-year-old was finally busted when a deal with a local developer went sour.
“We met him while we were developing 13 cottahs of land in Liluah jointly with the owners. He asked for Rs 1.5 Lakh per cottah. We begged him to reconsider. He did not and we had to spill the beans,” said Atma Prakash Singh, a developer who lodged a complaint with the police.
A trap was laid and Adhikari was caught accepting a bribe a bribe of Rs. 1 lakh ($1,500). He managed to flee but was found soon after and arrested along with his son Tanmay.
Back at his residence, wife Krishna said her husband has been framed. Their two-storey house, meanwhile, has suddenly turned into a “tourist” attraction.
“People are pouring in even from Kolkata to have a look at the house where one of the largest cash hauls in recent times was discovered. Overnight, it has become a landmark,” said a neighbour.