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ED puts Puri through the mill in drug scam

DECCAN CHRONICLE | dc correspondent

Published on: August 31, 2021 | Updated on: September 1, 2021

Tollywood filmmaker Puri Jagannadh presented himself before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials on Tuesday. (Twitter)

Hyderabad: Tollywood filmmaker Puri Jagannadh on Tuesday presented himself before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials who are probing the alleged money laundering angle in the infamous drug scandal of 2017.

The ED initiated the investigation on the basis of an FIR registered by the prohibition and excise department in 2017 under the NDPS Act. The focus of the Central agency is on illegal financial transactions unlike the prohibition and excise department whose main concern is excessive drug abuse among the bigwigs of Tollywood.

It is learnt that Jagannadh was asked to submit financial transaction details from three bank accounts during 2015-17 to initiate the investigation into the fund trail. The ED is looking deeply into these transactions to find out if there were any discrepancies like unaccounted funds transfer, said sources.

The 10 hours of grilling by the Central investigation agency, as expected, was gruelling for the filmmaker. He faced a volley of questions regarding drugs sale, his stay abroad and funds transferred to foreign countries. The law enforcement agency is primarily dealing with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Earlier, an RTI query by Forum for Good Governance revealed that around 62 people were questioned in the case, but only 12 cases have been registered and eight chargesheets filed by officials in the last five years.

Excise officials’ probe mainly revolved around how the kingpin of the drug racket - Calvin Mascarenhas - procured the drugs and with whom he was in contact apart from the travel history of him and his contacts. According to the excise officials, the persons who procured drugs and abused them are considered as 'victims' including Tollywood celebrities. However, with the ED entering the scene, their primary focus is on the money trail. All the persons who were summoned will be questioned on the same lines.

In 2017, the prohibition and excise department officials questioned some celebrities including actor Ravi Teja, director Puri Jagannath, actress Charmi Kaur, Tanish, Mumaith Khan, Navdeep, Subbaraju and Tarun. For many of them, the hair and nail samples were taken. Now the ED officials summoned mostly the same persons and added two names — Rakul Preet Singh and Rana Daggubati.