Day after bypoll loss, cops hunt for Janardhana Reddy

Day after bypoll loss, cops hunt for Janardhana Reddy

Janardhana Reddy (DH File Photo)

A day after losing Bellary Lok Sabha constituency to Congress-JD(S) coalition, fresh trouble seems to be mounting on beleaguered BJP leader Gali Janardhana Reddy after the Central Crime Branch (CCB) formed a team to nab him for his alleged involvement in a Ponzi scam.

According to reports, Reddy's Enable India Company received 57kg gold bars from Ambidant Company, an investment firm. The owner of Ambidant Company, Fareed approached Reddy for this deal through latter's close-associate Ali Khan.

Ali Khan allegedly purchased gold bars in the name of Enable India Company. Ramesh, the owner of Rajamahal Jewellery, fabricated a bill.

In June, the Income Tax department had carried out a raid in Ambidant Company related to ponzi scam. Reddy's involvement has been unearthed during the investigation against the company.

Several people had raised complaints against Fareed for cheating after investing money in the company. In September, the investors had staged a protest in Bengaluru against Fareed.

Cartoon by Sajith Kumar

Reddy allegedly struck a Rs 21 crore-deal with an Enforcement Directorate officer at Taj West End Hotel to save the Ambidant Company, reported News9 channel. He also bribed Rs 1 crore to the officer named Brijesh in March 2018.

Reports say, police have launched a manhunt in Delhi, Hyderabad other cities to arrest Reddy, Ali Khan and Fareed's son. Reddy is suspected to be hiding in Hyderabad.

Police have already arrested Ambidant Company owner Fareed and Jeweller Ramesh in this case.

The 'kings' of Ballari

Reddy brothers - Karunakara, Somashekara, and Janardhana - ruled the northern Karnataka district of Bellary (now Ballari) for years. The children of a police constable grew up immensely to become the unquestionable satraps in the district.

Janaradhana Reddy, people called him as GJR or GJ Reddy Sir, began with a finance company in 1989 at the age of 21. His company, Ennoble India Savings & Investment Company Limited, had opened at least 125 branches across South India and later in 2003 stopped its operation after paying all the amount to depositors.

The heady rise began when Janardhana and his brothers, along with close associate B Sriramulu, entered politics and mining, roughly at the same time in the late 1990s. 

He bought the Oblapuram Mining Company (OMCL) in 2001 with a licence to mine iron ore. Janardhana’s elder brother Karunakara Reddy, and Sriramulu, too, were at one time the directors of OMC. The then chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Y S Rajashekara Reddy had also blessed their company with necessary assistance.

With the international price for iron ore skyrocketing, the export of ore from Ballari too increased and so also the wealth of the Reddys. Anecdotes abound about how the Reddys and Sriramulu used to helihop to Bengaluru in one of their three choppers, for lunch. Iron brought gold, and Reddy was known to buy gold in bulk as he fantasised himself as an incarnation of Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara empire. 

Janardhana flaunted wealth. He made no bones of his donation of a Rs 45-crore diamond-studded crown to the presiding deity at Tirumala. He also acquired a golden peta (turban) besides a gown woven with gold thread. He got a special golden throne made by famed jewellers Krishnaiah Chetty & Sons of Bengaluru, whose worth is not known. Like the king he admired, Janardhana went on a spree of conquests, not provinces but mining firms and mining pits and eventually the entire Ballari district.

In 2016, Reddy organised a lavish wedding function by spending Rs 500 crore during the cash crunch after the surprise announcement of the demonetisation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This made international headlines.

READ: The rise, rise and fall of 'GJ Reddy Sir'

Political initiation

In 1999, when Sushma Swaraj of the BJP challenged Sonia Gandhi of the Congress who was contesting in Ballari, it was the Reddy brothers and Sriramulu who were the stormtroopers. They became very close to her, and used to call her their “mother”. She was a frequent visitor of Ballari till the scams of the Reddys were exposed.

With Swaraj's blessings, and that of many central BJP leaders, the Ballari trio became cabinet ministers when the BJP came to power in Karnataka. While Janardhana Reddy was in-charge minister of the iron-ore rich district, besides holding the tourism portfolio, Karunakara Reddy held the key revenue portfolio. Sriramulu was the health minister. The trio wielded considerable influence over the first-ever BJP government in the State.

Now the Reddys clout is almost faded as only Somasekhara and Sriramulu could win seats in the May 2018 Assembly elections. On Tuesday, the Congress wrested the Bellary Lok Sabha constituency from BJP in the byelection, where Sriramulu was an MP, after 14 years.

READ: Janardhana Reddy makes a jumbo return to BJP

Mining scandals

Serious charges of alleged illegal activities against OMC were made as early as 2006. The company had allegedly involved in encroachment of reserve forest land, illegal mining, encroachment of neighbouring mines, construction of illegal roads in the forest areas, tampering with the inter-state boundary and illegal transportation of iron ore. But no action was initiated to probe the charges, let alone stop it. 

However, the unexpected death of YSR in 2009 came as a severe jolt to the Reddys. With Jagan taking the Congress head-on the leadership issue, many dubious financial transactions between the Reddys and Jagan started coming to the fore.

Karnataka Lokayukta has dedicated about 10 chapters on the role of "GJR Sir" in the report on illegal mining. The anti-corruption ombudsman has severely indicted the Bellary trio in its report and recommended further probe by enforcement agencies. The Lokayukta has also described Bellary under the rule of "GJR Sir" as "Republic of Bellary" and explained in detail how administration in the district was misused and abused to allow illegal mining thrive.

In November 2009, the then chief minister of AP K Rosaiah ordered a CBI probe into the allegations of illegal mining. The Reddys had initially managed to get a stay on CBI probe from the High Court. 

But the stay was subsequently vacated, paving the way for the CBI to launch an investigation into the issue.

On September 5, 2011, the CBI arrested Janardhana Reddy and took him to Hyderabad. He spent 43 weeks in jail till he got bail on January 20, 2015, from Supreme Court with strict conditions, including a ban on entering Ballari district.

The fresh allegations of his involvement in the Ponzi scam may add to his woes.

READ: Grand welcome for Janardhana Reddy in Ballari

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