A special investigation team of the Telangana Excise (Enforcement) Department has sent notices to at least 11 Telugu film industry personalities, among them top director Puri Jagannath and actor Ravi Teja, seeking their appearance in a drug trafficking case busted on July 4. Officials said that among those given the notices are Jagannath, who has made the blockbuster Pokiri, actors Teja, P Navdeep, Tarun Kumar, A Tanish and P Subbaraju. Actresses Charmee Kaur and Mumait Khan are also to be questioned as also cinematographer Shyam K Naidu, singer Ananda Krishna Nandu and art director Chinna N Dharmarao.
Teja’s brother Bharath Raj died in a car crash on June 26 and was allegedly a drug user but Teja’s image had always been clean. Teja, Jagannath and Charmee have denied anything to do with drugs and the racket in separate statements on Friday. The 11 have been told to appear before the SIT at its office between July 19 and 27.
The notices were sent based on confessions of the 12 people arrested for alleged involvement in a drug racket that was busted by the Excise Department this month. Mobile phone numbers of the film personalities were found in the phone records seized from one of the culprits, identified as Calvin Mascaranhas, who allegedly supplied drugs to school and college children, along with at least nine other people. All of them have been arrested. The gang was peddling Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) and Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).
On Wednesday, a 29-year-old Indian-American aerospace engineer, who had earlier worked for Nasa, was held for peddling drugs in Hyderabad. His partner Ritul Agarwal was also arrested.
“We have given notices to a few persons who we think are involved in drugs and substance abuse. We want to record their statements so we have called them to appear before the SIT,’’ Telangana Excise (Enforcement) Director Akun Sabharwal said.
The Movie Artistes’ Association, representing the Telugu film industry, had earlier issued an advisory and warning to film stars and those associated with the industry to refrain from using drugs. Producer Allu Aravind said: “The industry is clean except for a few individuals who are spoiling its image.”