As critics and supporters of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu debate the pros and cons of his arrest and its political impact, NDTV’s Uma Sudhir spoke exclusively to Andhra Pradesh CID chief N Sanjay to ask how they concluded that the former Chief Minister is the end beneficiary of the alleged AP Skill Development Scam, and what they are doing about a key file that has gone missing.
The probe agency chief denied that he was acting on Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s diktat, but suggested that a former finance minister who had contradicted the CID’s claims must have done so under pressure. The CID chief mentioned other cases they are investigating against Mr Naidu and his son Nara Lokesh.
In an unusual move, Mr. Sanjay and Advocate General P. Sudhakar came to Hyderabad to interact with the media and explain the details of Mr. Naidu’s involvement in the alleged AP Skill Development Corporation scam and why he needed to be arrested .
When asked how the scam was linked to Mr Naidu becoming the final beneficiary, the CID chief told NDTV that a key aide of Mr Naidu, P. Srinivas, who had worked as his personal assistant for years, had gone missing used to be.
“Srinivas has been investigated by the IT department and as you know, Mr. Naidu has recently been issued IT notices for alleged unaccounted income of over Rs 100 crore. This person ran away. He was associated with two more persons involved in generating fake invoices and questioned by ED and IT. This shows that the proceeds of crime worth Rs 241 crore clearly points the finger at the end beneficiary. That is a gap in our investigation,” the CID chief said.
The Income Tax Department had reportedly raided Mr Sriniva’s house and found receipts and transactions traced back to his superior i.e. Mr Naidu, Mr Sanjay said.
He denied criticism leveled at him that he was working on the orders of the ruling party and Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy.
“The investigation started in 2018 when GST noticed irregularities. When accused and shell companies tried to avail GST benefits out of their greed and jostling among themselves to benefit from GST. We have booked FIR in 2021. pushing money out of the system was arbitrary and it calls for high-level pressure and commitment at the highest level. Senior officers have taken notes. We are working with the ED and IT on this,” he said.
Asked whether the Enforcement Directorate, which has arrested several people, had not named Mr Naidu as a suspect or interrogated him, Mr Sanjay said: “We are linking this to Mr Naidu because of the way companies with ulterior motives Have originated. Appointing outsiders to head the government agency, giving four posts to one man and transferring funds in a timely manner, even before execution and before compliance or review by a third party.
Asked whether the CID has issued a lookout notice for Mr Srinivas, who the CID said would be a key evidence in the case, Mr Sanjay said they were in the process.
“Mr Srinivas was summoned to appear before us. But he fled to the US. Another key witness, Manoj, also fled to the Middle East, shows the pressure being exerted on the high-profile individual involved,” he said.
While denying that he was working under any political pressure, Mr Sanjay said PV Ramesh, former finance minister, who had questioned the CID’s action in Mr Naidu’s arrest, might have been acting under some pressure.
Mr Ramesh, whose statement to the CID was cited as a reason to arrest Mr Naidu, had told NDTV that his statement was misunderstood or distorted by the CID. “The officers should be questioned to determine responsibility. How can the chief minister be held responsible for this?” he had asked.
Mr Ramesh had said that a key file in the APSSDC had gone missing and all claims were based on semi-official data in a shadow file maintained in the finance department. When was it determined that the file was missing?
“Under the CID scanner in the last 18 months, no matter what we tried, we traced the file. It could have gone missing in the earlier era itself since the case started in 2018 itself,” Sanjay said.
The Andhra Pradesh Criminal Investigation Department and the ruling YSRCP in the state are intent on keeping former Prime Minister Chandrababu Naidu busy fighting legal battles.
AP ADGP CID N Sanjay told NDTV that in addition to the AP Skill Development Case, the CID was also investigating the Amaravati Capital Inner Ring Road case in which they allege that changes were made in the scheme for the benefit of those close to Mr Naidu and his former cabinet colleague Narayana and others.
In another AP Fibrenet Corporation case where they claim that Naidu’s son Lokesh is involved and the debt would be resolved.
A YSRCP leader alleged that even on Sunday, when they were waiting for the verdict on Mr. Naidu’s remand, the Punganuru police were waiting to take Mr. Naidu into custody, in case the judge orders the grand judicial remand of Mr. Naidu would not comply. Last month, cases had been filed against Mr Naidu for allegedly inciting his executives to commit violence against the YSRCP activists.