Drug Bust in Tollywood
Top personalities from the Telugu film industry in police net
Abkari Bhavan, the headquarters of Telangana’s prohibition and excise department, has been seeing a number of visitors from the Telugu film industry. Actors Tarun Kumar, P. Navdeep, Subbaraju, Charmme Kaur and Mumait Khan, director Puri Jagannath, art director Dharma Rao and cinematographer Shyam K. Naidu were among those called in for questioning and asked to submit hair, fingernail and saliva samples for forensic testing.
The summons to the film folk followed the arrest of Calvin Mascarenhas, a bank employee-turnedsmall-time musician, and two others on July 2. Investigators say Mascarenhas is the mastermind of a nefarious narcotics network supplying synthetic drugs, including LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and MMDA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine). More arrests have followed. The 17 persons detained so far include Dundu Anish, a US national and former aerospace engineer at NASA, and seven IT professionals from Hyderabad.
Investigators say Mascarenhas is among a handful of Indian customers of Silk Road, a notorious e-market on which synthetic narcotics are traded in bulk. Disguised as medicines, the drugs are distributed via international courier services as well as in parcels sent through
ordinary post. Mascarenhas and his associates, in turn, supplied smaller peddlers or directly to customers. Arrested in 2013 for peddling marijuana, Mascarenhas allegedly turned to supplying LSD and MMDA in Hyderabad after being released from jail in 2015.
But tracking the network he used to procure the drugs is proving to be a major challenge. It is not yet known from who the drugs are procured or where they are shipped from. Orders are invariably communicated via darknet. While the police have engaged professional hackers to trace the supply chain, they have also asked the postal department and courier services to keep an eye on shipments from South America and Europe.
Dr Akun Sabharwal, director (enforcement) in Telangana’s prohibition and excise department, says: “So far, we have gathered that at least 17 bars and pubs allow drugs to be sold or used on their premises.” The charges, if proved in court, would mean stiff penalties— up to 20 years in jail and Rs 2 lakh
SUMMONS TO THE FILM FOLK FOLLOWED THE ARREST OF CALVIN MASCARENHAS, THE ALLEGED KINGPIN OF A NARCOTICS NETWORK
fine—for the bar owners.
The Telangana police are going through call records, including those of the actors and other film personalities called in for questioning. Sources said the information gleaned from the phone records could lead to fresh raids on peddlers still on the loose and reveal how rave party organisers, event managers and celebrities are driving the demand for narcotics. On July 24, the police nabbed a gang, including five Nigerians, dealing in narcotics and seized cocaine, brown sugar, amphetamine tablets and marijuana worth approximately Rs 10 lakh. The gang has been active for over two years and also found to be involved in human trafficking.
NOW SHOWING Actor Subbaraju appears before Telangana excise officials in Hyderabad