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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK
'Treasure hunt' for bandit's loot
Veerappan
Veerappan is believed to have stashed his loot in the forest
The death of the Indian bandit Veerappan has sparked a treasure hunt for his riches, officials say.

Police in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have warned villagers to stay away from the jungle where Veerappan operated.

He is believed to have stashed millions of rupees, including ransom money, in secret caves and holes in the forest.

Veerappan, India's most wanted outlaw, was shot dead by police on Monday after a 20-year manhunt.

Many villagers and tribal people living around the forest began searching for the hidden loot soon after the bandit was buried on Wednesday, officials say.

We will keep a watch and if at all anything is found by treasure hunters, we will seize it and return it to the government
SN Borkar
Karnataka police chief

"We have seen groups of locals venturing into the forest looking for Veerappan's money," said local district administrator U Ravindram.

"Hopefully, they will lose interest in due course," he is quoted as saying by AFP.

Ransom

The police chief in Karnataka state, SN Borkar, warned of action against anyone venturing into the forest.

"We will keep a watch and if at all anything is found by treasure hunters, we will seize it and return it to the government," he said.

The bandit is believed to have hidden money he made through the poaching and smuggling of sandalwood and ivory and by collecting ransom after a series of high-profile kidnappings.

In 2000, he held hostage a famous southern Indian film star, Rajkumar. A senior police official later said 300m rupees ($6.5m) had been paid to secure his release.

But the actor and his family have always denied paying any ransom.

Veerappan's secret stockpile also includes ivory and sandalwood logs.

But many say it will be very difficult to locate any of the loot which is hidden in 6,000 square kilometres of forest.

In a related development, Veerappan's widow Muthulakshmi has told the BBC that the police have frozen her bank accounts and seized money she received from her husband.

Fear

Despite the bandit's death, the relatives of some of his victims say they still fear for their safety.

The family of a retired policeman, Abdul Kareem, has asked for extra security because of fears of a backlash by remnants of the bandit's gang.

Mr Kareem had led a campaign against granting parole to Veerappan's gang members serving time in jails in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu during negotiations by the government to secure the release of Rajkumar from the bandit's custody.

His son, also a policeman, was later killed in an ambush by Veerappan's gang.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How Veerappan became India's most notorious bandit



SEE ALSO:
In pictures: India bandit gunned down
19 Oct 04  |  In Pictures
Death of a legendary bandit
18 Oct 04  |  South Asia
Controversy haunts bandit search
19 Oct 04  |  South Asia
Veerappan hunt a 'waste of time'
01 Jul 03  |  South Asia


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