A set of three unrelated images showing a pile of currency notes and gold bars and jewellery is viral with false claims that a priest of Tirupati Balaji Temple, one Shekhar Reddy, was caught with the photographed wealth after an income tax raid in his house.
BOOM had already debunked one among the three images showing gold jewellery, which was earlier viral with a similar claim. Read BOOM's fact check here. We were able to trace the remaining two images to a raid at perfume trader Piyush Jain's Kanpur property from where cash and gold worth crores were recovered in December, 2021.
The images have been captioned as, " Income tax raid in the house of a poor priest of Tirupati Balaji Temple, Shekhar Reddy and they found 128 kg gold, Rs 150 crore cash and diamonds worth Rs 77 crore. Everything else is fine. The business of religion is still number one in the world. And this country is the most poor, starving, malnourished and uneducated."
(Original caption in Hindi: तिरुपति बालाजी मन्दिर के एक गरीब पुजारी शेखर रेड्डी के घर इनकम टैक्स की रेड हुई उसमें 128 किलो सोना, 150 करोड़ रुपये नगद और 77 करोड़ रुपये के हीरे मिले हैं।बाकी सब कुछ खैरियत हैं।धर्म का व्यापार दुनियां में अभी भी नंबर वन पर बना हुआ हैं। ओर ये देश सबसे ज्यादा गरीबों, भूखमरा, कुपोषित व अशिक्षित..)
The photos are viral in Facebook with the same caption .
BOOM was able to ascertain that the first image is from a robbery case from Vellore, Tamil Nadu. The image was part of a video that was earlier viral with a similar caption. BOOM had then fact-checked the same and found that the video is from Vellore and shows gold and jewellery recovered by police following a theft at a Joy Alukkas showroom in Vellore, TN. BOOM contacted Vellore's Additional Superintendent of Police (ADSP) KS Sundaramoorthy and Joint Superintendent of Police Albert John who confirmed to us that the claim with the video was false.
Image 2 and 3
We ran a reverse image search on the photographs and found that the images showing gold slabs and a stack of cash lying on the floor are from a raid at Kanpur trader Piyush Jain's property. The same was found in a concealed underground storage from the premises owned by Piyush Jain. According to a report on the Republic, "raids at perfume trader Piyush Jain's residence led to the recovery of over Rs 250 crores of cash, 25kg gold and 250kg silver by the Directorate General of GST Intelligence (DGGI). The images are from a concealed underground storage from the premises owned by Piyush Jain."
The same was reported in CNN News 18 which claimed that foreign origin gold was found under the possession of Jain
BOOM has reached out to Tiruamala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) for a comment. The article will be updated when we get a response.
Who is Shekhar Reddy
Shekhar Reddy or J Shekhar Reddy was the erstwhile TTD board member. He was initially removed by the Andhra Pradesh government following a seizure of enormous cash and gold during an IT department raid on the residences and offices owned by Reddy. Reddy was also a public works department contractor in Chennai and Vellore. In 2019, the AP government nominated Reddy as a special invitee to the Board of Trustees, Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams. Later, in September 2020 a special CBI court gave clean chit to Reddy in the IT raids case 'on grounds of lack of evidence'.