Tollywood director Puri Jagannadh appears before ED

Hyderabad: Well-known Telugu film director Puri Jagannadh on Tuesday appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering probe linked to a four-year-old drug case.

Jagannadh along with his chartered accountant appeared before ED officials after he was summoned in connection with the probe.

The ED last week issued notices to 10 persons connected to Tollywood and two others, including a private club manager, as part of its investigation.

Besides Jagganadh, actors Rakul Preet Singh, Rana Daggubati, Ravi Teja, Charmee Kaur, Navdeep, Mumaith Khan have been asked to appear before ED between August 31 and September 22

Tanish, Nandu, actor Ravi Teja’s driver Srinivas were also among those summoned.

The questioning is likely to bring to light new facts about the racket which was busted with the arrest of drug peddlers in 2017.

Before beginning the questioning of Tollywood personalities, the ED gathered details of the investigations conducted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Telangana’s prohibition and excise department.

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The questioning by the ED has brought 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.

The 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 were 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 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.

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.

It filed chargesheet in eight out of 12 cases. The Team 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.

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.