Ballari’s mining baron and former BJP minister Gali Janardhan Reddy, missing for the last three days, appeared for questioning at the crime branch office of the Bengaluru police this evening in connection with an alleged bribery case. The crime branch had issued a notice asking Mr Reddy to appear before it on Sunday after conducting searches at his Ballari home yesterday.
Earlier today, in a video message, Mr Reddy said he was not on the run, and rubbished reports that he was in Hyderabad.
“Now that the notice has been issued by the police, I have decided to appear before the Central Crime Branch today itself though the notice says I should appear on Sunday,” Mr Reddy said in the video.
“I decided to make this video to let people know the truth. I have faith in the police and believe that they would not succumb to any political pressure,” he added.
“Watching television, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. We will cooperate fully with any investigation,” he is heard saying in the video.
The police said Janardhan Reddy – a minister in the BJP government headed by BS Yeddyurappa – is wanted by the Central Crime Branch of Bengaluru Police in connection with a Rs 18 crore bribery case.
The owner of a private enterprise, the Ambident Group, has alleged that during his days as minister, Janardhan Reddy had demanded Rs 18 crore from him, promising to bail him out of a corruption case. The money was paid to a close aide.
The Ambident Group, which deals in finance, has been accused of duping hundreds of investors and has a Rs 600-crore fraud case against it.
During interrogation by the police, its owner Syed Ahmed Fareed, allegedly said Janardhan Reddy had met him at a private hotel in Bengaluru and promised help.
Syed Ahmed Fareed has claimed his firm paid Rs 18 crore to one Ramesh Kothari, a bullion trader in Bengaluru, who gave it to a jeweler to convert it into 57 kg of gold. The gold was handed to Ali Khan, a close aide of Janardhan Reddy, the police said.
Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said that the case should not be viewed from a political point of view.
“This a matter related to the police. There is a complaint that he has been cheating people. Based on that complaint, the investigation is on. I will not involve myself in that for any reason. I have given them a free hand,” he said.
“There is no need to give a political colour to it. They will take action against the guilty.
There is no pressure on me and I will not yield to any pressure. As chief minister, I will not give an opportunity to vengeance politics. They will investigate and I will not protect anyone,” he further added.
Mr Reddy, his brothers and their close aide B Sriramulu were all powerful in the iron-ore rich Ballari district of the state after supporting the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj in her Lok Sabha battle against Sonia Gandhi in 1999. The Congress held on that time, but from 2004 onwards, Ballari stayed with the BJP right until this week’s bypoll.
The BJP looked to the group to help form their first government in south India – when BS Yeddyurappa fell short of a majority after assembly elections in 2008. They delivered the required lawmakers, making their party even more dependent on them.
But after allegations of illegal iron ore mining surfaced, Sushma Swaraj is said to have withdrawn her support. Janardhan Reddy spent time in jail and was out on bail. He was being considered a liability by his party. In the run-up to the assembly elections this year, BJP president Amit Shah disowned Mr Reddy, saying that the party had nothing to do with him. But still he campaigned for the party.
There were allegations that he had laundered a huge sum of money ahead of his daughter’s wedding in 2016.
Two of Janardhan Reddy’s brothers – G Somashekara Reddy and G Karunakara Reddy – were fielded by the BJP from areas surrounding Ballari in the recent assembly elections in Karnataka. His aide B Sriramulu contested from two seats – Molakalmuru in Chitradurga district and in Badami against outgoing chief minister Siddaramaiah.
On Tuesday, the party lost the Ballari parliamentary constituency to the Congress.