Hyderabad: After a brief lull, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Wednesday took liquor merchants across the state by surprise by raiding the offices and residences of several of them and arresting 20 persons. Some of the arrested were produced in the court, while the rest will be presented on Thursday.
The raids were conducted simultaneously in the districts of Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Medak, Nalgonda, Nellore, Kadapa, Anantapur, Chittoor, Krishna, Guntur, Prakasam, East Godavari and West Godavari districts as a part of the investigation into benami owners of liquor outlets. The ACB registered 22 cases against the accused, relating to frauds committed during the auction of liquor shops.
The raids which commenced early in the morning continued till evening. The ACB sleuths questioned the liquor merchants under their custody seeking information on liquor syndicates. They are also learnt to have seized some documents pertaining to the outlets and belt shops apart from computer hard-disks from syndicate managers and accountants.
The ACB sleuths questioned the liquor merchants under their custody seeking information on liquor syndicates.
Though several excise officials, including Machilipatnam excise CI Rambabu, were taken into custody and questioned, the ACB officials refused to divulge any information pertaining to it.
The sudden raids surprised everybody, even as the liquor traders are pooling money for submitting fresh bids for trade licenses at the end of this month. Several liquor merchants reportedly vanished from the scene soon after learning about the raids.
According to the ACB officials, the liquor merchants arrested are M Venkateswara Rao of Kakinada in East Godavari district, G Satyanarayana of Eluru in West Godavari district, Y Subba Rao of Kaikaluru in Krishna district, U Ram Prasad of Pedana in Krishna district, Meka Srinivas of Srikakulam district, A Nageswar and K E Madhava Krishna of Kurnool district, D Nagendra of Kadapa district, CH Sudhakar Reddy of Nellore district, K Dharma Rao of Chirala in Prakasam district, K Konda Reddy and K Nagabushana Rao of Chittoor district, E Raju Yadav of Ranga Reddy district, N Nageswara Rao of Nalagonda district, V Sriranga Rao of Karimnagar district, B Devi Das of Nizamabad district and V Karunakar Reddy of Gajwel in Medak district.
The ACB sleuths are learnt to have taken several others into custody for questioning, including P Srinivasulu Reddy from Chitvel in Kadapa district and V Nageswara Rao from Machilipatnam in Krishna district. The ACB sleuths also conducted searches at the residences of liquor traders at Tenali and Guntur.
Further, the ACB officials picked up liquor merchants Jayachandra Reddy, Vikram Reddy, C Suryanarayana Reddy, P Venkata Naidu and P Narasimha Reddy from Gudur and Kavali in Nellore district in connection with liquor syndicates.
They allegedly confessed to giving about `11 crore bribes to politicians, officials and media, of which `3.5 crore was distributed among officials of the prohibition and excise department. It is learnt that soon after the ACB raided the residences of liquor traders, six excise officials, including two CIs and two SIs, apart from a couple of constables, have been absconding from the district.
Though the ACB officials were going full throttle against liquor syndicates till about a couple of months ago, they had slowed down for sometime with the state government posting a senior officer above the then ACB chief D Boobathi Babu, who later went on leave.