Tollywood Drug Case: Excise hands over 800 pages file, 60 GB video 10 audio evidence to ED

Addicts caught with small quantities of banned substances can undergo rehabilitation in a center recognized by the government

By Coreena Suares  Published on  30 March 2022 3:44 AM GMT
Tollywood Drug Case: Excise hands over 800 pages file, 60 GB video 10 audio evidence to ED

Hyderabad: Telangana Excise and Prohibition department has handed over a 'dossier' to the Enforcement Directorate-Hyderabad unit, in the alleged five-year-old drug trafficking and abuse case involving Tollywood celebrities.

The dossier includes an 800-page file, 60 GB (video evidence), and 10 audio recordings. The 800-page file includes FIRs, a charge sheet, and statements of accused, witnesses, and suspects of the 12 cases booked. The 60 GB of evidence includes a CD and pen drive. It contains video recordings of Tollywood celebrities shot at the Excise office in 2017 during questioning. And the audio evidence is decoded - call detailed records of the accused.

In 2017, the prohibition and excise department had booked 12 cases under Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substance Act. Special Investigation Team (SIT) had filed 11 charge sheets mostly against small-time drug peddlers and consumers. Though Telugu cinema celebrities were summoned and questioned, not a single case was registered against them due to lack of evidence. The case is now being probed for money laundering by ED on the directions of the High Court.

In March 2022, ED filed a contempt case against Telangana Chief Secretary and Excise department for 'non-compliance' with the state High court order. The order was related to providing audio-video recordings and other related documents to ED.

Investigation into the alleged drug case may turn lukewarm

It is pertinent to note that the ED probes cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) Act and this particular case is of alleged drug trafficking and abuse. The Narcotics Control Bureau is unobtrusive even to this day.

Sources told this correspondent that the dossier may not 'nudge' NCB to join the probe. Evidence gathered from investigating officials revealed that the total cost of the drugs purchased by the accused in the 12 cases is not exceeding Rs 25 lakhs. All the cases pertain to the consumption of Cocaine, LSD blots, MDMA, Ecstasy and Ganja in less quantity.

"In 10 out of 12 cases booked under the NDPS Act, the contraband found was in very 'less quantity'. People accused in 10 cases 'can' directly attract immunity from prosecution. In the other two cases, the quantity found was of commercial use' a source told NewsMeter.

Section 64-A of the NDPS Act grants immunity from prosecution to addicts volunteering for medical treatment. Addicts caught with small quantities of banned substances can undergo rehabilitation in a center recognized by the government. Those with immunity will not be liable for prosecution.

The timeline of the case is another interesting aspect.

It is significant to note that the drug case involving celebrities, who had made headlines, was put into cold storage for four years, until 2020 when the ED moved the court. The case took a sharp turn in 2017 when Congress' Malkajgiri MP and now TPCC President A Revanth Reddy, who was then Kodangal MLA, filed a PIL in the High Court praying that the case be transferred to the central investigating agencies.

"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," he said. He made Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, ED, and CBI respondents.

Barring the ED and CBI, none of the central agencies including the Narcotics Control Bureau responded. In 2018, the CBI filed a counter stating the agency will/can investigate only if the High court issues directions. Two years later, in December 2020, ED sleuths filed an Interlocutory Application in court. The cold case turned hot when ED dashed a letter to the Excise department on November 20, 2020, asking for details.

What followed was ED's summons in 2021. The department called 12 prominent persons including Tollywood actors and directors. Those who were questioned include actors Rakul Preet, Ravi Teja and his driver, Tarun, Mumaith Khan, director Puri Jagannath, Charmee Kaur, and Navdeep.

ED is now investigating the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

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