The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has intensified its probe into the alleged illegal deals of the now-suspended Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL) Planning Officer and in-charge Secretary of Telangana State Real Estate Regulatory Authority (TSRERA) Shiva Balakrishna. The ACB, which conducted raids on his house and other properties, is investigating claims that he received commissions for giving layout and building permissions. A disproportionate assets case has been filed against the official under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Balakrishna, 54, who was arrested by the ACB on January 25, is said to have maintained silence on the first day of questioning. But ACB officials said he turned cooperative when a five-member team started grilling him with the help of several sale deeds and other documents seized from the raid on his palatial duplex villa at Aditya Fort View in Puppalaguda in the suburbs of Hyderabad.
“He (Balakrishna) was stunned when we showed him seized sale deeds for properties at the IT hub in Raidurgam and Madhapur, apart from other prime locations in Bachupally and Medchal. He started disclosing information gradually,” an ACB official said, seeking anonymity.
The official also said Balakrishna denied any links to the seized documents related to two infrastructure companies at Banjara Hills and Kothapet. Sources in ACB said they are investigating complaints that Balakrishna, who worked as a director of the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HMDA), used to demand at least three open plots or a flat apart from gold and silver ornaments as gifts for giving permission to develop a venture or construct an apartment in the city suburbs.
The ACB official said the initial scrutiny of movable and immovable assets, especially open plots, agriculture lands, and other valuables, showed it might be worth over Rs 200 crore in the open market. This includes the properties acquired in the name of his ‘benamis’.
“Once the bank lockers of Balakrishna and his ‘benamis’ are opened and the value of his movable and immovable properties are assessed with evaluators, we will be able to know the total value of the assets,” the official explained.
He said a detailed examination of call data records of Balakrishna and his aides would also give more information about his connections with realtors and other government officers in giving approvals for developing ventures.
As approval from HMDA is mandatory for developing a venture or constructing an apartment, several realtors approached Balakrishna for help when he worked as director of HMDA to get permission in violation of norms and in return, he used to demand open plots or flats, another ACB official explained.
Based on a complaint, the ACB registered a case against him under provisions of Section 13 (1) (b) read with 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and arrested him after conducting simultaneous raids at his residence as well as at those of his relatives and benamis.
In addition to gold ornaments weighing 1,988 grams and silver articles weighing six kgs, 36 branded wrist watches and Rs 99.60 lakh in cash, several sale deed documents registered at different sub-registrar offices (SROs) in Hyderabad, Nagarkurnool, Jangaon, and Yadadri-Bhuvanagiri districts were seized from Balakrishna’s house.
The detection of disproportionate assets including movable and immovable properties worth over Rs 8.26 crore at the time of his arrest is many times higher in the open market than the document value, the ACB said.
Even as the ACB team is grilling him in connection with the corruption case, complaints have started pouring in from several people who faced problems with Balakrishna. The ACB is examining the authenticity of these complaints.
Documents and materials seized during ACB raids
∙ Duplex villa with penthouse in Puppalaguda (Balakrishna’s house)
∙ Four open plots in Ghatkesar
∙ A flat in Somajiguda area and Serilingampally
∙ 12 acres and 3.16 acres of agricultural land in Nagarkurnool district
∙ 0.17 guntas and 1.2 acres of agricultural land in Jangoan district
∙ 0.10 guntas open land in Chevella
∙ 0.15 guntas, 0.29 guntas, and 0.3 guntas agriculture land in Yadadri- Bhuvanagiri district
∙ 36 wrist watches, including Rado, Rolex, and other brands, worth Rs 32.38 lakh
∙ Electronic goods worth Rs 15.51 lakh
∙ Bank balances available in the name of Balakrishna and his family members to the tune of Rs 58.02 lakh
∙ Rs 99.60 lakh in cash
M Srinivas is a senior journalist from Hyderabad with more than two decades of experience who has worked in several newspapers, including the Times of India and The Hindu.