HYDERABAD: Prohibition and Excise Minister Mopidevi Venkata Ramana and a host of politicians in Khammam and Warangal districts have come under spotlight with one Ramana, an organiser of a liquor syndicate in Khammam, claiming to have paid the minister `10 lakh and varying amounts to others to ‘buy’ protection for his illegal business.
Ramana’s revelations created a stir since it is the first time that the names of politicians figured in the list of those who received bribes from liquor traders.
Ramana, in his statement to the ACB, named several others as recipients of bribes. They are: Mahbubabad MLA M Kavita (`5 lakh), CPM-ML New Democracy secretary P Ranga Rao (`4.5 lakh), Sattupalli MLA SV Veeraiah (`3 lakh), TRS district convenor D Rajender (`60,000) and CPI leader Puvvada Nageswara Rao (`3 lakh).
In the remand diary submitted to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) court a week ago, the ACB said Ramana had admitted to paying `10 lakh to the minister. Ramana was arrested by the ACB in raids conducted on January 27 and 28. When the ACB officials recorded his statement, Ramana confessed to bribing the minister for carrying out illegal business without any hitch. The ACB said: “He (Ramana) paid `10 lakh to two persons to hand it over to the minister in return for allowing him to form a syndicate and do illegal business.”
Reacting sharply to the charges, the excise minister dismissed Ramana’s claim as baseless. He said: “I do not know any liquor merchant in Khammam district. I came to know just now that Ramana was a criminal and that he was involved in a murder case too. The contents of the statement he made to the ACB are totally false,” the minister said.
The minister said he was ready for any probe: “I will meet the chief minister tomorrow and seek a full fledged inquiry into Ramana’s claim. If the inquiry reveals that I had taken the bribe, I would resign as minister in five minutes,” he said.
Ever since the ACB began raiding the offices of liquor syndicates and arresting excise officials, there has been an uproar in the state over the nexus between politicians and the liquor syndicates. The opposition Telugu Desam Party had even claimed that PCC president Botcha Satyanarayana was a part of the liquor mafia.
Even on Tuesday, ACB officials raided a wine shop and arrested cashier Srinivas in Vijayawada. They are on the lookout for one Uma Maheswara Rao who is the leader of a syndicate.
In the report that it had submitted to the court on January 25 on raids conducted since December, the ACB had given a graphic account of how the excise officials were extracting bribes from liquor merchants who in turn were selling liquor at a more than the MRP.