Andhra: IPS officer Venkateswara Rao to be prosecuted over security equipment purchase

AB Venkateswara Rao, a 1989 batch IPS officer, was considered close to former Chief Minister and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu.
AB Venkateswara Rao, former intelligence chief of Andhra Pradesh
AB Venkateswara Rao, former intelligence chief of Andhra Pradesh
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The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has sanctioned the prosecution of IPS officer AB Venkateswara Rao for alleged corruption in the procurement of surveillance equipment during his tenure as additional director general of police (ADGP), intelligence wing, in Andhra Pradesh in 2017. Rao is accused of bypassing procurement rules to purchase equipment worth Rs 25.50 crore, which included UAVs (unmanned vehicles) and aerostats (aerial surveillance equipment), through an Israeli company linked to his son.

Following requests from the Andhra Pradesh government to the MHA to sanction the prosecution of Rao last year, the Union government approved prosecution under Section 19(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, as per the recommendation by the Central Vigilance Committee (CVC). 

The letter by the Ministry dated May 2, stated that the order was issued based on case records, facts and circumstances of the case and advice of CVC, and noted that prima facie exists against Rao for his prosecution before a court of law. It also stated that the IPS officer purportedly caused loss to the government exchequer under the pretext of a police modernisation scheme to benefit his son A Chetan Krishna, who was heading the company which procured the equipment from a firm based in Israel. 

According to the order, Rao proposed the procurement of surveillance equipment for Andhra Pradesh police under the Modernisation of Police Force Scheme in 2017-18 worth Rs 20 crore. He also incorporated M/s Akasam Advanced Systems Private Limited, headed by Rao's son, in Vijayawada. The Managing Director of the Israeli firm, RT Inflatable Objects Limited or RTLA Systems Limited, gave an authorisation letter appointing Chetan Sai Krishna’s company as their lawful representative in India (all regions except Telangana and Andhra Pradesh).

“Without following the Rules/Regulations/guidelines framed for procurement of equipment, clandestinely pushed for the procurement of surveillance equipment ie. UAV (unmanned vehicle) and Aerostat for an amount of Rs 25.50 crore in the guise of modernisation of the Police Force and thereby attempted to benefit his son,” the order stated. 

Venkateswara Rao, a 1989 batch IPS officer, was considered close to former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.  When the YSR Congress Party formed the government in 2019,  Assembly Speaker Tammineni Sitaram announced that a House Committee would be constituted to probe into the alleged purchase of Pegasus software by TDP. Rao, previously the intelligence chief under the TDP regime, held a press conference and denied his involvement in procuring Pegasus spyware. He later faced a show cause notice for speaking to the media about the Pegasus row without government permission. 

Rao was suspended by the state government led by YSRCP due to alleged misconduct in security equipment procurement in 2020.  His suspension was revoked in May 2022, but within two weeks of his new appointment as Commissioner of Printing and Stationery, he was suspended again for an alleged attempt to influence witnesses in a criminal trial.  

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