Crime
The police have pieced together a paper trail of the money laundering operations and have also procured confessions.

A day after mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy was accused of being involved in a ponzi scam, the Central Crime Branch sleuths investigating the case have raided his mansion in Ballari.

A team of Bengaluru CCB officers reached Ballari on Thursday morning and began searching Janardhana Reddy’s home.

The search operation comes a day after he was accused in a money laundering case. The police have accused Gali Janardhana Reddy of taking Rs 20 crore from the owner of Ambidant Marketing Pvt Ltd Syed Ahmed Fareed in order to strike a deal with Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials to drop the case against they were investigating against Ambidant.

A lookout notice for Reddy was also issued in all airports and harbours as there are suspicions of the Ballari strongman leaving the country.

A CCB source told TNM that Syed Ahmed Fareed allegedly confessed to giving Janardhana Reddy Rs 20 crore, of which Rs 2 crore in cash and 57 kg of gold bullion worth Rs 18 crore by laundering it through two jewellery firms.

The source said that Syed Fareed was under the police lens for allegedly cheating hundreds of investors after promising them massive returns and then reneged. “It was during his interrogation that Syed confessed to ADGP Alok Kumar, who learnt that he had paid Janardhana Reddy. The CCB officers are now looking for the gold and hence they are searching Reddy’s house in Ballari,” the source added.

The Bengaluru Central Crime Branch has formed four special teams to look for Janardhana Reddy, who went incommunicado on Wednesday.

How did Janardhana Reddy’s name appear in the scam?

The CCB source said that over a fortnight ago, ADGP Alok Kumar was put in-charge of probing Ambidant’s alleged money laundering case. “Initially, all we knew was that the founder of Ambidant had cheated many people of at least Rs 200 crore. After an FIR was registered, Fareed was called in for questioning. Fareed confessed to cheating the people and promised to return all the money. He told ADGP Alok that he had rich friends who would help him,” the source said.

CCB sources say that Fareed was adamant about keeping the names of his alleged “rich associates” secret. When the CCB sleuths pressed him for details after further investigation, he revealed the name of Ali Khan, a close associate of Janardhana Reddy.

“ADGP Alok Kumar was also taken aback as much as other officers. He immediately informed Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy. The bye-elections were in progress. Hence, the information was not made public and Reddy’s arrest was put on hold as the incident would have be politicised. However, information of Ali Khan’s possible arrest was leaked and he applied for anticipatory bail and Reddy was able to abscond,” the source added.

Who is Syed Fareed?

Syed Fareed is the founder of Ambidant company in Bengaluru, which duped thousands of people with the promise of bountiful returns. The total scam has been pegged by city crime branch at around Rs 600 crore and a total of 21 cases have been filed since 2017.

Much before Fareed courted arrest with city police, the company was raided by the Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate. After his property was attached, Fareed had approached Ali Khan, an associate of Reddy.

Police also  confirmed media reports which said Fareed with his son Ashfaq had met Ali and Reddy at the Taj West End in Bengaluru hotel in March and the 'deal' was done to “settle the case.”

How police found the Reddy angle?

In November 2017, three cases of fraud were registered against Ambidant Marketing Pvt. Ltd. in the DJ Halli police station. The case was subsequently handed over to the CCB in mid-October this year. It was while going through the company’s financial records that the police discovered the transactions.

The CCB came across various bank accounts and transactions. However, one transaction of Rs 18 crore stood out. Up on investigation, it was was found that the account was linked to a Bengaluru-based jeweller Ramesh Kothari, owner of Ambika Sales Corporation. Kothari’s questioning revealed the name of another city-based jeweller Ramesh, who runs Rajmahal Fancy Jewellers to be involved in the transaction.

Up on following the money trail, it became evident that gold bars had reached Ali Khan. It was after this that Fareed was questioned about his alleged “rich friends.” The interrogation revealed that Fareed and Reddy met through Ali Khan and the first meeting was set up by a realtor from HSR Layout Brijesh Reddy.

“Last week, Ramesh was arrested. He confessed to delivering the gold to Mehfuz Ali Khan, the personal assistant of Janardhana Reddy in Ballari,” the CCB source said.

The CCB sleuths have also recovered six vouchers of Ambika Sales Corporation, which allegedly is proof of the sale of 57 kg gold bullion signed by Syed Fareed, who had transferred the Rs 18 crore to the firm.

Syed Fareed, who is also in CCB custody, has allegedly confessed to meeting Janardhana Reddy in March this year at a posh Bengaluru hotel and paid him to allegedly ensure that the Enforcement Directorate drops the probe against Fareed.

The CCB sleuths have recovered 21 photographs from Fareed’s phone of the meeting in Taj West End. “The photographs are geo-tagged and the time and date has also been recorded,” the source said.