Local officials initially sought to cover up the loss, but the disappearance of more than ten million rupees – known in India as a ‘crore’ – was discovered following the arrival of a new manager.
The notes had been kept in a ‘currency chest’ at the branch in Barabanki district, Uttar Pradesh, and officials were reported to be ‘horrified’ to have found most of them reduced to dust by termites when they inspected the contents.
Senior officials from the state headquarters and local detectives were called in to investigate the claims. Police officers, however, said they have not yet ruled out ‘foul play’ in the disappearance.
Geeta Tripathi of the State Bank of India said it did appear that the notes had been eaten by termites.
The amount missing could turn out to be significantly higher – each ‘currency chest’ usually contains up to 50 ‘Crores’ of rupees – more than £6 million.
Sunil Dwivedi, the branch manager, said the branch had been infested with termites. “We have been trying our best to keep currency notes safe but the termite problem here is so enormous that it would be better to move the branch elsewhere,” he said.
"I am not sure where the termites came from, but as you can see this building is quite old. Anti-termite treatment is now underway."