Puri Jagannadh Image Credit: IANS

India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) questioned leading Telugu film director Puri Jagannadh for nearly 10 hours on Tuesday in connection with a money-laundering probe linked to a four-year-old drug case.

Jagannadh, who, along with his chartered accountant, appeared before ED officials after he was summoned in connection with the probe, left the ED office Tuesday night.

Officials are reported to have recorded the director’s statement and quizzed him about some financial transactions.

Producer Bandla Ganesh also arrived at the ED office in the evening, triggering speculations that he too was summoned. He, however, clarified that he came to the ED office only to meet his friend Jagannadh but was not allowed. He requested media not to link him with the case.

The ED 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 Jagnnadh have been asked to appear before ED between August 31 and September 22.

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

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.

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.

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 drugs racket was busted on July 2, 2017 when customs officials arrested Calvin Mascarenhas, a musician, and two others and seized drugs valued at Rs300,000 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 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 it 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.

Ravi Teja, Charmme Kaur, Mumaith Khan, Jagannadh and young actors Tarun Kumar and Navadeep were among the stars who were questioned by the SIT.

Cinematographer Shyam K. Naidu, actors Subbaraju, Tanish, Nandu and Teja’s driver were also among those questioned.

The SIT filed chargesheet 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, 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.