Exclusive: Hyderabad police book 5 top GST officials for 'illegally' detaining woman during search operation

Those booked include M.Srinivas, GST Principal Commissioner- Chennai, Anand Kumar, GST Commissioner-Kutch, Bollineni Srinivasa Gandhi, GST Assistant Commissioner (under suspension), Chilaka Sudha Rani, Deputy Commissioner GST (under suspension), and Isabella Britto, GST Superintendent. The five officials have been booked under section 354, 341, and 506 of the Indian Penal Code.

By Coreena Suares  Published on  20 May 2022 3:24 AM GMT
Exclusive: Hyderabad police book 5 top GST officials for illegally detaining woman during search operation

Hyderabad police have booked five top GST officers for 'illegally' detaining a businessman's wife during a search operation in 2019. The victim cum complainant J Raghavi Reddy was detained for the whole night by the officers in violation of law and Supreme Court guidelines. City cops registered the case based on the directions from the National Commission for Women.

Those booked include M.Srinivas, GST Principal Commissioner- Chennai, Anand Kumar, GST Commissioner-Kutch, Bollineni Srinivasa Gandhi, GST Assistant Commissioner (under suspension), Chilaka Sudha Rani, Deputy Commissioner GST (under suspension), and Isabella Britto, GST Superintendent. The five officials have been booked under section 354, 341, and 506 of the Indian Penal Code.

The incident dates back to 2019 when the accused GST officials serving in the anti-evasion wing raided Hyderabad-based Bharani Commodities owner Satya Sridhar Reddy Jagannagari in an alleged tax evasion case. The proprietor was reportedly arrested and sent to judicial remand in the case. However, it was his wife who alleged the 'violation of constitutional rights' of an individual.

According to the complainant J Raghavi Reddy, on February 27, 2019, at about 5.30 pm when her husband Sridhar Reddy was abroad, five persons barged into her house in Banjara Hills claiming to be the officials of GST. "Exhibiting aggressive behavior, scaring and intimidating, the five officials used force against us. One of the officers, Isabella Britto threatened that they could do anything and nobody could question or obstruct them. Without a search warrant, they ransacked our house, causing damage to the properties," she told the police.

Further added, "Having found nothing, they forcibly took me to their GST office in Basheerbagh and detained me till 4.00 AM. At around 1.30 AM, two officials entered the room and introduced themselves as Bolleneni Srinivasa Gandhi and Chilaka Sudha Rani from the Anti evasion wing. Both of them began threatening me that if my husband (Sridhar Reddy) was to live peacefully, we (the couple) should pay them a bribe of Rs 5 Crore. Both told me that the entire bribe was not for them alone, but they have to share it with then principal Commissioner M Srinivas and Additional Commissioner Anand Kumar".

Records submitted by Raghavi Reddy revealed that in 2009, she had given a GPA to her husband to act on her behalf in Hyderabad steels in which she was a partner. The same copy of GPA was handed over to Bolleneni Srinivas Gandhi during the investigation.

"He (Gandhi) tore the GPA and threw it away. They illegally detained me till 4. 00 AM. I was allowed to leave the GST Basheerbagh office after 4 am on February 28, 2019, with the direction that my husband should pay them a Rs 5 Cr bribe. On February 28, 2019 afternoon, Isabella Britto came to my house and once again forcefully took me to the GST office for the second time, where I encountered Anand Kumar, who threatened and directed me to tell my husband to pay the Rs 5 Cr bribe as demanded by Bollineni Srinivasa Gandhi and Chilaka Sudha Rani during my last night illegal detention. Anand Kumar further told me that they have all the powers, which they have already showcased last night by illegally detaining me. During the encounter, Anand Kumar misbehaved with me by indulging in Voyeurism" she said

Initially, the victim approached the NCW with her complaint, who in turn directed the Hyderabad police to look into it and take action as per the law. Hyderabad police examined the complaint and based on initial inputs, they registered a case against five officials. "GST officers illegally detained J Raghavi Reddy for the whole night to pressure her husband Satya Sridhar Reddy Jagannagari for demanding a bribe of Rs 5 Cr, the FIR said.

Incidentally, this is the same case where in Satya Sridhar Reddy Jagannagari had complained to CBI about the bribe being demanded by the same GST officers. Hyderabad cops have now booked them for illegally detaining his wife J Raghavi Reddy.

It is pertinent to note that Sreenivasa Gandhi, who investigated several high profile multi-crore scams including that of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy's quid pro quo and MP Srujana Chowdhary's ED cases, has been in the eye of storm since 2019.

Gandhi served as an assistant director at the Enforcement Directorate. He was appointed investigating officer in Rs 100 crore demonetization fraud case against Musaddilal Jewelers, a money laundering case against mining baron Gali Janardhan Reddy and many other high-profile cases.

Gandhi made headlines in 2019 when CBI booked him and his wife in Rs 3.8 crore disproportionate assets case. The CBI was acting on a complaint filed by Vivekanand Swamy. Gandhi was then serving in the anti-evasion unit of Central GST. However, continued to work in the department. But, it was in February 2021 that the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs suspended Gandhi and another officer Sudha Rani in a bribe case.

Chronology of Events

CBI in February booked two top officers in a bribe case. The central investigating agency booked Sudha Rani Chilaka, former deputy commissioner of the GST anti-evasion wing, and Sreenivasa Gandhi Bollineni, the then Superintendent of the same department.

The investigation found that Chilaka Sudha Rani and Srinivasa Gandhi Bollineni, both formerly serving with the GST anti-evasion wing, were probing a case against a company 'Infiniti Metal product India'. The group is accused of wrongfully availing fake input tax credit (ITC) to evade GST payment. The two top officers reportedly colluded with other GST officials and demanded a bribe of Rs 5 crore for official help.

"They (referring to the two officials) accepted Rs 10 lakh cash and demanded open land/plots for the balance of the bribe amount," CBI said. The CBI also booked the proprietor of Bharani Commodities and Satya Sridhar Reddy Jagannagari for keeping the investigating agency in dark regarding the bribe demands and payments. The third accused was arrested by the GST officials in an alleged fraud case, he was sent on judicial remand in 2019. The accused reportedly paid Rs 10 lakh to the officials under the threat of arrest of his wife J Raghavi Reddy.

"He failed to report the matter to CBI or any other law enforcement agency within 7 days," CBI said.

CBI arrested Gandhi in April 2021

In April 2021, the Sleuths of the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested and suspended Central GST Assistant Commissioner Srinivasa Gandhi Bollineni for disproportionate assets. "Bollineni Gandhi has been arrested in a disproportionate assets case due to non-corporation from his side despite several notices issued by the CBI, the officer failed to appear for questioning," a top officer told NewsMeter.

It is pertinent to note that, his suspension came two months after he was promoted to the grade of Assistant Commissioner of Customs and Central Excise. (On 24th December 2020, Gandhi was promoted since there was no pending charge sheet against him at the time of departmental promotion).

Gandhi and Sudha Rani are currently under suspension.

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