Updated: June 26, 2022 7:15:42 am
A group of priests of the Devalaganapur temple in Karnataka’s Kalaburagi district allegedly created fake websites in the temple’s name and siphoned off crores of rupees in donations from devotees. Booked by police, they are yet to be traced.
The temple located on the Gangapur river in Afzalpur taluk of north Karnataka attracts devotees not only from the across the state but also from neighbouring Maharashtra and Telangana. Sri Dattatreya is the deity of the temple.
According to the police, the priests created about eight websites with names such as Dattatreya Devalay, Ganagapur Dattatreya temple, Shri Kshethra Dattatreya temple, which over the past four years accepted fees and donations to the tune of Rs 20 crore, all of which were diverted to their personal bank accounts. They charged Rs 10,000 – Rs 50,000 as fees for conducting various poojas and other rituals.
The temple is under the control of the state’s Muzurai department and Kalaburagi deputy commissioner Yashwant Gurukar is the chairman of its development committee. The fraud was unearthed at a recent audit meeting chaired by Gurukar, who then directed executive officer Namdev Rathod to get a police case registered.
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A local resident said on the condition of anonymity that the priests were present in the town till the case was registered against them.
Preliminary reports of a recent cyber forensic audit suggested that nearly 2,000 devotees had paid money through the fake websites, sources said, adding that individual priests would take care of devotees and gave their contact number on the receipt.
The police also suspect the priests had swindled money from the temple’s donation boxes as well. “After the incident came to light, we checked the CCTV footage. On the day money from the donation boxes was counted, the CCTV cameras were either diverted or masked. Kalaburagi deputy commissioner Yashwant Gurukar has ordered the recovery of the money from the accused priests,” said a police officer.
The temple’s official website, http://www.devalganagapur.com, has been taken down.
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