Pressure mounted by Tollywood, the Telugu film industry, on the TRS government in Telangana not to chase some more celebrities in the ongoing drugs racket that was unearthed in Hyderabad in June end, seems to have slowed down the investigation of the case in which already 20 persons were arrested and 30 others questioned, according to sources in the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Excise and Prohibition.
Due to this pressure, Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) has agreed to treat all the detected drug addicts or random users, including those from the film world, as just victims instead of accused as per earlier stand.
This has drastically altered the scope and nature of the investigation that was aimed at curbing the drugs racket deeply entrenched in the film fraternity, as well as in educational institutions in Hyderabad for over a decade.
A major reason for the government buying the argument of Tollywood bigwigs is that the massive grilling and framing of many film people would dent “Brand Hyderabad”, which draws IT industries, and affect the film shootings here. Hyderabad accounts for 30% of film shootings and post-production work in the country.
The SIT, which has been probing the case has created ripples in the film industry by summoning as many as a dozen stars, heroines, directors and technicians to its head office at Nampally in the city from 19 July to 2 August. Leading star Ravi Teja, hero Tarun, director Puri Jagannath, heroine Charmee and some actors and technicians were among those who were questioned.
The SIT was supposed to serve notices to another batch of a dozen or so celebrities as their names had figured during the questioning. A few top rated stars and producers are believed to be in the next list.
But now the Enforcement wing of Excise and Prohibition, which has formed the SIT, has decided not to announce the second list of film people and grill them amid media glare, but instead record their statements at the latter’s convenience, only to implicate the arrested accused.
All the celebrities were served notices based on the data base of one of the arrested accused, Calvin Mascarenhas, 28, a drug dealer who operates between Goa and Hyderabad. Another dozen locals, including a few youth from Bangalore, were taken into custody based on the confessions of Calvin and another accused Brendon Ben, a 27-year operative. The SIT made a breakthrough with the arrest of key drug peddler, Dutch national Mike Kamminga, 35, from his rented house on the city outskirts on 26 July. However, unlike other arrested peddlers, Kamminga has refused to cooperate with the SIT and share data on his iPhone which is now in police custody.
R.V. Chandravadan, Excise and Prohibition Commissioner, however, told The Sunday Guardian that there was no question of anyone being involved in the drugs case being let off. “We have got full mandate to bring to book the accused, however big they may be,” he said. When contacted, the office of Akun Sabharwal, director of the Enforcement wing, said that the second list was still being readied.