Hyderabad: With a city court accepting the charge sheets filed by the Special Investigation Team of Telangana’s Excise and Prohibition Department, the focus is back on the high-profile drug case in which some leading personalities from Telugu film industry were questioned.
The court accepted the charge sheets on Thursday, setting the stage for the commencement of the trial in the sensational case which had rocked Tollywood four years ago.
The drugs racket was busted on July 2, 2017 when customs officials arrested Calvin Mascarenhas, a musician, and two others and seized drugs valued at 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 into the scandal.
A total of 12 cases were registered, 30 people were arrested while 62 individuals, including 11 film celebrities, were examined by the SIT under Section 67 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
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.
Actors Ravi Teja, Charmme Kaur, Mumaith Khan, well-known director Puri Jagannath and young actors Tarun Kumar and P. Navadeep were among the stars who were questioned by the SIT.
Cinematographer Shyam K. Naidu, actors Subbaraju, Tanish, Nandu, and Ravi Teja’s driver Srinivas were also among those questioned.
The SIT filed 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.
However, the Forum for Good Governance had also objected that the investigation was being deliberately delayed due to the involvement of celebrities.
In 2019, the NGO filed a series of applications under the Right to Information Act to know the status of the probe and the action taken so far.
It alleged that deliberate attempts were made to hush up the case. It said while cases were registered against those who brought drugs to Hyderabad, no action was taken against the middlemen and consumers in the city.
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.
The NGO, however, alleged that no attempt was made to trace the customers of the accused.
The forum had also slammed the department for constituting a SIT with an inspector as its head. It argued that am inspector is too small a post to book heavyweights like film personalities and corporate school students who have political clout.
Among those arrested in the case include Dutch national Mike Kamminga. He was considered a key link in the supply of drugs from European countries to the other accused in the case.
Those detained and questioned also included a former aerospace engineer of NASA, and seven B Tech graduates, most of whom were working for multi-national companies.
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.
The key accused were allegedly getting drugs from some European countries through courier companies and even the Postal Department.