A prominent businessman Jayaram Chigurupati was found dead in his car on the Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway on Thursday night, near Nandigama in Andhra's Krishna district. Jayaram was a non-resident Indian (NRI) and was the Director of Coastal Bank and also owned a pharmaceutical company called Hemarus. He was also the Managing Director of Express TV.
Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, a police officer said, "At around 11:30 pm on Thursday night, we received a call from the patrolling vehicle that a car had swerved off the highway and there was a dead man lying inside between the front seat and the backseat. We rushed to the spot immediately."
The police said that when they checked the documents on the body, they found his driving license, through which they found out his identity.
"He had left his house day before yesterday. He had a driver and personal security but chose to drive the car himself and leave. Since then, he was not in contact with anyone. On Thursday evening, he messaged one of his employees in Vijayawada and stated that he was coming and asking the employee to arrange lodging for him,â€ť the police officer added.
The police also said that the car passed the Panthangi Toll Plaza at 8:30 pm on Thursday night.
â€śHowever, someone else was driving his car. The driverâ€™s photo was not clear but he was wearing a white shirt. We suspect foul play. This is a suspicious death. We suspect that someone killed him and abandoned the car here to make it look like an accident. We are trying to make further headway into the case,â€ť the police said.
While bottles were found in the car, the police said that they had to ascertain if anyone consumed the alcohol. A case has been registered. â€śIt is not a natural death, that is for sure. We will complete investigation soon,â€ť the police added.
The body has been sent for an autopsy and the police hope that the medical results will help them make further progress in the case.
In 2014, Jayaram was the Managing Director of Express TV, a Telugu news outlet in Hyderabad, which had shut shop after failing to pay salaries to its employees.
Until December 2015, the channel's TRP ratings began going up, and it found itself in the list of the top 10 Telugu news channels. However, by June, it had stopped paying salaries to its employees. Seeing the channel go downhill, several employees quit in 2016 and even filed criminal cases against the company.
In January 2017, Jayaram was arrested by the Balanagar police, on charges of not paying former employees their salary/compensation, as the few cheques that were given out, bounced.
The next day, he was questioned by officials of the Crime Investigation Department (CID), reportedly on a complaint of 'fraud' and 'cheating' of an amount of over Rs 100 crore. He was later granted conditional bail.