A day after Officials of Telangana's Excise and Prohibition said that at least 15 personalities from the Telugu film industry were suspected to be involved in the sensational drug racket busted in Hyderabad last week, a list of names of people who had reportedly received notices from the police has reportedly been leaked.
A list doing the rounds in the media, reported by most Telugu media and some English media, includes the names of Tollywood bigwigs like director Puri Jagannadh and actor Ravi Teja, among those who have received notices from the Excise department.
Other names doing the rounds are actors Tarun Kumar, P Navdeep, cinematographer Shyam K Naidu, art director Chinna Dharmarao, character artist Subbaraju, and singer Ananda Krishna Nandu.
Female actors like Charmee Kaur and Mumaith Khan were also reported to have received these notices.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Enforcement Wing of Prohibition and Excise (P&E) Department has sent notices to these personalities to personally appear before it between July 19 and July 27.
While the number of artists from Tollywood linked to the racket was said to be 10 till Wednesday, Enforcement Director Akun Sabharwal on Thursday said some more people from the industry were identified for suspected substance abuse.
Officials said the material gathered so far during the investigation indicate that Tollywood personalities were using cocaine, LSD, MDMA and other drugs.
Addressing media persons after the 'list' was leaked, Akun Sabharwal refused to comment on the issue saying, "We have not revealed any names from the Excise department side or STF's side. I have no comment to make on the names."
He added that each personality was given a specific date, when they had to appear before investigators.
On why the names of those who had been sent notices had not been officially revealed, he said that it was unethical and illegal to reveal the names at this stage. "The notices were served for the development of the investigation, we haven't made any allegations against these people," he said.
Notices have been sent under Section 67 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, which deals with benefit of doubt.
The people from Tollywood were identified based on the call data of the mobiles of the accused already arrested in the case.
Personalities deny links
The Indian Express reported that Ravi Teja, Puri Jagannath and Charmee Kaur have denied they had anything to do with drugs or the racket.
The IE report also adds that Ravi Tejaâ€™s name in the list was a shock to many, as he had a clean image, while his brother, Bharath Raj, who recently died in a car crash on June 26, was allegedly a drug user.
Others who have been named in the list also have been speaking to the media.
Speaking to TV9, Subbaraju admitted to have received the notice and expressed shock.
"In the notice, they are claiming to have found my number in Calvin's contacts. I don't know who this person is, and i don't know how he has my number. I respect the law and I'm confident of facing the system. I did not do any wrong. They have asked me to meet them on July 21, and I am willing to go," he said.
Taking to Twitter, Navdeep said, "It is usual to sensationalise news as soon as there are film people involved, me being involved in events and working with some wrong event managers i can understand why this happened! It's a matter of time before this is sorted .. requesting media and people to have patience" (sic).
The Movie Artists' Association (MAA) had earlier warned the artists against drug abuse and asked them to mend their ways.
Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce President D. Suresh Babu said the film industry could not afford to have its image tarnished because of a few individuals getting into drugs.
Following the drug bust earlier this month, P&E officials said over 1,000 students, some as young as 13, were using drugs.
The accused were selling drugs to the students of several schools and colleges in Hyderabad.
Authorities have already issued notices to over 50 schools and colleges, whose students were involved. The parents and educational institutions have been asked to take necessary steps to prevent the students from buying drugs.ï»¿