India

House of cash: police find $31m inside home

cash house Image copyright debasish bhaduri
Image caption Fifteen men - some from India's central bank to determine whether the currency was fake - used four counting machines and took more than 20 hours to calculate the cash

When anti-corruption police in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal raided a house belonging to a municipal engineer in the city of Howrah on Friday evening, little did they realise they would stumble upon the largest amount of of cash they had ever seen.

Police raided Pronab Adhikary's house after receiving complaints from real estate developers that he had been demanding bribes for clearing building plans. His wife has denied the allegations, and said her husband was being framed.

Mr Adhikary's mid-level job as an engineer in the local government-run municipality involved clearing building construction plans.

By the end of the raid, they had recovered cash worth $31m (£20m) from the 15-year-old, six-room, two-storey house in the suburb of Howrah, on the outskirts of the capital, Calcutta.

Image copyright Hindustan times
Image caption Wads of currency notes were found hidden under the marble floor, in cupboards, sofas, pillows, mattresses and inside false ceilings and enclosures under the bed
Image copyright debasish bhaduri
Image caption Police say they are questioning Mr Adhikary on how he could amass so much money when his monthly salary was $690
Image copyright Sanjoy ghosh
Image caption Most of it was found inside a box under a bed and inside an unused bathroom - the cistern, commode, false ceiling, floor, and a cupboard under a basin were stuffed with money
Image copyright debasish bhaduri
Image caption The cash was taken out in trunks and taken to the police headquarters in Kolkata
Image copyright debasish bhaduri
Image caption There was armed security outside the house when the cash was taken out of the house
Image copyright Sanjoy ghosh
Image caption Police are also investigating whether Mr Adhikary was hoarding the money for himself or of colleagues in the municipality who may have taken or shared bribes
Image copyright debasish bhaduri
Image caption Mr Adhikary's neighbours say he led a simple life, rode a motorcycle to work and bought inexpensive provisions at the local grocer

Corruption is rife in real estate in India, where developers and officials often connive in clearing illegal building plans in return for bribes. Also, cash - also called 'black' or illicit money - is often hoarded at home to avoid paying income tax.

In November 2014, cash worth more than $15m was found in the house of an engineer in Noida in the suburbs of Delhi.

An income tax raid on a bureaucrat couple's house in the central state of Madhya Pradesh in 2010 yielded cash worth $459,770. They were both dismissed from service for "amassing property through corrupt means".

In 1996, bundles of currency notes worth $551,724 - money collected in bribes - were seized bags and suitcases from former federal telecommunications minister Sukh Ram's house. He was convicted and sent to prison.

Additional reporting by Amitabha Bhattashali in Kolkata