In a major development, officials of the Andhra Pradesh unit of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested Avva Sitarama Rao, a key accused in the multi-crore AgriGold scam, in Gurgaon on Tuesday.
Sitarama Rao, the younger brother of the tainted company's chairman, Avva Venkatarama Rao, had been absconding since 2014, when news of the scam first broke out.
According to media reports, Sitarama is named as an accused in at least 8 FIRs, and was produced before a local magistrate in New Delhi. He has been flown to Vijayawada and is expected to be produced in front of a city court on Wednesday.
â€śWe received a tip-off that the accused was taking shelter in Delhi for the past two years under a different identity. We have been searching for Sitarama for the past three years. He reportedly played a key role in running the company in Rayalaseema districts and Karnataka,â€ť sources told TNIE.
Responding to the arrest, M Nageshwar Rao, Honorary President of the Agrigold Customers and Agents Welfare Association, appreciated the police and the state government for nabbing the accused, even though it came after four years.
â€śSitarama and his benamis alone will have assets worth Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 crore. A detailed investigation should be conducted into this. The state government must also look into the reason for the delay in arresting the accused,â€ť Rao said.
He added that the accused must undergo a narcotics test if he does not cooperate with the investigative authorities.
â€śWe demand that the properties of the tainted company be attached and auctioned by the court, so that they can recover the money and repay it to the victims of the scam,â€ť Rao said.
â€śA decision must be taken by May 30, failing which we are planning a padayatra in support of the victims.â€ť
In March this year, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu distributed cheques worth Rs 5 lakh to each of the families of those who lost their lives due to the AgriGold scam.
Handing out the compensation to the people at the Interim Government Complex (IGC) at Velagapudi, Naidu asked people to be cautious with their savings and deposit them in public sector banks.
The Chief Minister doled out a total amount of Rs 5 crore as compensation to aid the families of the victims of the multi-crore scam.
Around 3.2 million people in many states, including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, were duped by the AgriGold scam, which came to light in 2014.
AgriGold owes Rs 6,380 crore to over 32 lakh depositors in 9 states, with Andhra Pradesh leading the list with 19 lakh depositors.
The company lured several lakh customers on the promise that their investment would come back to them with higher returns. Several 'agents' were also sent out to convince people to invest in the group of companies.
The company allegedly took this money and invested heavily in real estate, before branching out to other areas as well, and finally duping the customers.