Hyderabad: Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned 12 prominent persons including Tollywood actors and directors in the four-year-old drug trafficking and consumption case. The case was filed by Telangana's Special Investigation Team (SIT) in 2017. The SIT had filed 11 charge sheets in 12 cases booked mostly against small-time drug peddlers. Though Telugu cinema celebrities were summoned, not a single case was registered against them due to lack of evidence.
According to reports actor Rana Daggubati, Rakul Preet, Ravi Teja and his driver, Tarun, Mumaith Khan, director Puri Jagannath, Charmee Kaur, Navdeep are among the 12 summoned. ED is investigating the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). It is to note that ED first started a probe into the case on November 20, 2020, when it shot off a letter to the excise and prohibition department.
It is significant to note that the drug case, which had made headlines, was put into cold storage for four years. ED's summons has once again brought the focus on the case which exposed the alleged drug cartel in the Telugu Film Industry.
A highly placed source told NewsMeter that investigation into the drug racket has gathered steam after the demise of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput. "Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide in June 2020. The case had a possible drug angle. Post his death, the investigation into the drug cartel gathered steam. The Narcotics wing of the Maharastra government summoned top celebrities including Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, and more. The ED reportedly received 'directions' from the bosses to probe into the money trail of all pending drug cases. This spate of events set the stage for reopening the four-year-old case," the source said.
Pertinently, Congress Malkajgiri MP A Revanth Reddy, who was then Kodangal MLA, filed a PIL in the High Court in 2017, praying that the case be transferred to the central investigating agencies. "The Telangana government is continuing its lopsided investigation into the massive drug nexus only through the (special investigation team) of the prohibition and excise department. It is ill-equipped to deal with the case. It cannot deal with the case without the guidance of central agencies including the Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, ED, and CBI," Reddy said in his petition.
The timeline of the case is another interesting aspect.
Petitioner A Revanth Reddy filed the PIL in 2017 after the SIT arrested drug peddlers and interrogated Tollywood celebrities. The then MLA prayed that the case be transferred to ED, CBI, and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence for a thorough probe.
Revanth Reddy prayed to the court that Prohibition and Excise Department should hand over copies of FIRs, charge sheets, and other relevant documents to central agencies.In 2018, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a counter stating the agency will/can investigate only if the High court directs. Two years later, in December 2020, ED sleuths filed an Interlocutory application.
What did ED tell the court about the delay in submission of evidence?
ED has found that various cases under NDPS Act were registered by the prohibition & excise department in Hyderabad in 2017. Thereafter, a letter was dashed off to the commissioner, prohibition, and excise department with a request to provide copies of 12 FIRs registered in 2017 along with relevant documents. Till December 2020, they did not receive any reply, ED said.
ED filed an IA, seeking FIRs, charge-sheet, statements, digital evidence, and all other related documents.