December 17, 2016 3:03:32 am
The names of a BJP leader from Bellary and a cricket betting operator from Bengaluru have emerged alongside that of a Karnataka Administrative Services (KAS) officer in a state CID probe into a post-demonetisation money exchange racket that allegedly resulted in the suicide of the KAS officer’s driver.
Prior to his death on December 7, driver K C Ramesh (30) had written a 12-page note stating that his boss, KAS officer L Bhima Naik, helped launder money for former BJP leader Gali Janardhan Reddy, who is accused of illegal mining, and his associate B Sriramulu, BJP MP from Bellary, for the wedding of Reddy’s daughter in November. The note alleged that the KAS officer was trying to silence him because he had information regarding the money laundered.
Investigations by the CID of Karnataka Police into the death of Ramesh has revealed that the driver was involved in at least one attempt at exchanging old currency on behalf of Naik in Ramanagar district.
The police found that Naik, who is under arrest, travelled to Ramanagar district bordering Bengaluru on November 17 with Ramesh to meet Ramesh’s friend Suresh Kumar, a driver for the Ramanagar district collector, who claimed to have contacts for the exchange of the Rs 50 lakh that was in Naik’s possession. “An exchange was arranged,’’ a source said.
The two drivers allegedly approached a middleman called Narayan. The deal initially involved 20 per cent commission for the middleman, but the rate was raised to 35 per cent and the deal fell through, with Naik asking the drivers to abort the deal and return with the Rs 50 lakh.
However, when the drivers returned, Rs 8 lakh was allegedly missing from the bag. Kumar claimed the money was probably taken by the middleman. Naik, who was upset, allegedly organised the kidnap of Suresh the same day. The driver was held in captivity in Bengaluru for over a day before being released.
After the death of Ramesh, Kumar filed a complaint with the police about his kidnapping. On Friday, the CID took over this investigation as an extension of the suicide probe. The CID is investigating whether Ramesh was also harassed and tortured by associates of Naik, leading to suicide.
In his suicide note, Ramesh stated that his boss provided Rs 25 crore to Janardhan Reddy. “Naik told me he had given Rs 25 crore for the marriage of Reddy’s daughter on November 15 in Bengaluru. He also illegally exchanged Rs 100 crore in black money and took 20% commission for it,” the note, in Kannada, read.
CID sources said that preliminary probe had not revealed the quantum of money exchanged by Ramesh. “We have so far found that the case involves the exchange of Rs 50 lakh in demonetised cash. But investigations are still on,’’ a source said.
A cricket betting and gambling operator from Bengaluru and a BJP leader from Bellary have emerged as being associated with Naik’s activities, and investigations are on about their roles in the money exchange racket and suicide of the driver, sources said. “The names have emerged but we would like a few days to firm things up,’’ a source said.
Naik and another of his drivers Mohammed were arrested on December 11 by the CID. Multiple properties belonging to Naik were raided on Friday by the Anti-Corruption Bureau as part of a parallel probe into alleged amassment of illegal wealth.
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