M A I N   N E W S

Tribals hunt for Veerappan treasure
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, October 22
While the STF of the Tamil Nadu police is celebrating the slaying of forest brigand Veerappan and its new status of being rich after being awarded cash money, promotions and housing plots, tribals in the region are also trying to get rich quick.

They are treading arduous paths in the jungles to unearth the hidden treasure buried by Veerappan. From as far Chinnampatti in Coimbatore district to Anchetty in Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu they are venturing into the 20,000 sq km forest, which is spread mostly over Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and also parts of Kerala.

Their venture into the domain of the slain sandalwood smuggler in search of a fortune might yield results as Veerappan was in the habit of burying money, provisions and ammunitions in various parts of the jungle.

According to an STF officer, “Neither Veerappan nor his gang members carried a large amount of cash fearing sudden attacks. He buried not only cash but also ration in various parts of the forest in a planned manner so that he could survive at least for a week in any part in that area if cornered.”

With the core gang having been wiped out on Monday night the STF has no clue how to unearth the treasure, which is buried inside the deep forests, other than question people who were close to Veerappan.

“He used to bury his cash and ammunitions in large polythene bags. That information we have from places where he used to buy these bags. But even our informers do not know the places where he buried it and to scan the entire jungle is an impossible task,” said the officer. The STF is basically trying to focus on the pockets, which Veerappan frequently visited assuming that his hidden treasure was buried there.

A team led by Superintendent of Police (STF), Mr N.K. Senthamaraikannan, had recovered food materials and money from a few places in the Sathyamangalam forests in Tamil Nadu in the past.

But according to those who knew the forest brigand, Veerappan never buried the huge amounts, which he “earned” in the past few years but kept it with close persons and his relatives. He just kept a few lakhs with himself and his gang members for emergency.

“That was evident when we found that he was carrying Rs 3 lakh only while travelling in the ambulance on his way to a hospital for treatment,” said the STF officer.

During raids over the past few years the STF had seized trucks, earthmovers, cranes and bundles of currency in the denomination of Rs 500 from his relatives.

Many of his relatives who were extremely poor now lived in luxury compared to rural standards, said the officer.

“In fact, we intend to raid his relatives instead of wasting our time in looking for hidden treasure in the forests,” he said.

Asked how much money the STF can recover going by Veerappan’s “earnings” throughout his life, the STF officer remarked: “That one can never guess. He must have netted at least Rs 50 crore.”

But then, poor men in search of cash inside the jungles might end up rich as they would certainly find a few lakhs of rupees buried here and there, he said.

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