Andhra minister sent to judicial custody in Jagan graft case
A special court Thursday sent Andhra Pradesh Excise Minister Mopidevi Venkataramna to judicial custody for 14 days in a case involving alleged illegal assets of YSR Congress leader Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy.
Venkataramna was arrested at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) camp office soon after he appeared before agency officials for questioning for a second consecutive day. A CBI official said the minister was arrested around 1.30 p.m.
Venkataramna, the first minister in the state's history to be arrested on charges of corruption while in office, was then produced in a CBI court, which remanded him to judicial custody till June 7. The court also agreed to the CBI's petition for five-day custody of the accused.
The minister was later shifted to Dilkusha Guest House, the CBI camp office where the investigators would question him for five days.
As the minister's name did not figure in the First Information Report (FIR) registered in August last year, the CBI filed a memo before the special court including him as an accused in the case.
Venkataramna, through his aide, sent his resignation to Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy.
Claiming that he has done no wrong, he wrote that he got entangled in the case. He said as a true follower of the Congress party, he signed the government orders on the direction of then chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.
The fourth accused and first minister to be arrested in the case, Venkataramna was nabbed a day before Jaganmohan Reddy, known as Jagan, is to appear before CBI for questioning.
Venkataramna was minister for infrastructure and investment in the Rajasekhara Reddy government when certain companies were allegedly shown undue favours in return for investments they made in businesses of Jagan, the chief minister's son.
The CBI has booked the minister for corruption, cheating, criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servant, and falsification of accounts.
He has been arrested for issuing certain government orders for allotment of lands and other concessions to the Vanpic project in 2008.
Venkataramna reportedly violated norms and also did not take the opinion of the finance and law departments while issuing government orders allotting 15,000 acres of land in Guntur and Prakasam districts to Vanpic and granting it exemptions under Stamps and Registration Act.
The CBI last week arrested leading industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad and bureaucrat K.V. Brahmananda Reddy.
Prasad, one of the two promoters of Vanpic, allegedly invested over Rs.800 crore in Jagan's companies in return for the land and other concessions he received under a quid pro quo arrangement.
The CBI grilled the minister Wednesday. He was questioned along with Prasad and Brahmananda Reddy, then special secretary, infrastructure and investment.
Talking to reporters after meeting the chief minister Thursday morning, the minister said allotments to Vanpic were made as per the cabinet decisions.
Following the minister's arrest, his followers in his native Guntur district attacked a few buses and blockaded roads. Police arrested some protesters and imposed prohibitory orders in Repalle town.
The minister's followers have called for a shutdown in Repalle assembly constituency represented by him.
Various organisations of backward classes condemned Venkataramna's arrest and alleged that he was being made a scapegoat.