Film director Puri Jagannadh on Tuesday reached Enforcement Directorate (ED) office in Hyderabad to appear before the agency officials in connection with a drugs case. The case is related to the busting of a drug racket in 2017.
ED summoned several other film personalities of Tollywood in connection with the case.
The drugs racket was busted in July 2017 after the arrest of a musician and two others and a seizure of drugs from their possession.
The questioning is likely to bring to light new facts about the drugs racket which was busted with the arrest of drug peddlers in 2017.
The ED officials will be questioning those summoned about the alleged money-laundering aspect of the case. The agency last week issued notices to 10 persons connected to Tollywood and two others, including a private club manager, as part of a money-laundering probe linked to the drugs racket.
Actors Rakul Preet Singh, Rana Daggubati, Ravi Teja, Charmee Kaur, Navdeep, Mumaith Khan, and director Jagannadh have been asked to appear before ED between August 31 and September 22.
Cinematographer Shyam K Naidu, actors Subbaraju, Tanish, Nandu and Teja's driver were also among those being questioned. The development has created ripples in Tollywood as two leading actors who were not questioned by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Telangana Excise and Prohibition Department two years ago, have also been summoned by the ED.
Rakul Preet has been asked to appear on September 6 while Rana of 'Baahubali' fame has been summoned on September 8. The questioning by the ED will bring the focus back on the case, which was in cold storage and was even considered dead by many due to the clean chit given by SIT to the film personalities.
Tollywood circles are worried the development as the ED investigation could bring out new facts linking it the probe faced by some Bollywood actors. However, an ED official has clarified that for now those summoned will be treated only as witnesses.
The ED has asked Ravi Teja to appear on September 9 while Mumaith Khan has been summoned on September 15. The drugs racket was busted on July 2, 2017 when customs officials arrested Calvin Mascarenhas, a musician, and two others and seized drugs worth Rs 30 lakh from their possession.
They had reportedly told the investigators that they are supplying drugs to film celebrities, software engineers, and even students of some corporate schools. Mobile numbers of some Tollywood celebrities were allegedly found in their contact lists.
The Excise Department had constituted the SIT for a comprehensive probe. A total of 12 cases were registered, 30 people were arrested while 62 individuals including 11 people connected with Tollywood were examined by the SIT under section 67 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and section 161 of Criminal Procedure Code.
Actors Ravi Teja, Charmme Kaur, Mumaith Khan, Jagannadh and young actors Tarun Kumar and Navdeep were among the stars who were questioned by the SIT.
The SIT had collected blood, hair, nail and other samples from some of those who appeared before it for question and sent them for analysis.
The SIT filed a charge sheet in eight out of 12 cases. It, however, gave clean chit to the film personalities who were questioned as part of the investigation.
The accused against whom cases were booked include Rafeal Alex Victor, a South African citizen, and Puttakar Ranson Joseph, working in the film industry as a manager. Joseph was the manager of leading actor Kajal Agarwal who sacked him after his arrest. An NGO, however, alleged that no attempt was made to trace the customers of the accused.
The authorities had recovered 3,000 units of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), 105 grams of MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), 45 grams of cocaine and other narcotic and psychotropic substances from the accused.
(With inputs from ANI and IANS)
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