Ex-Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has been sent to judicial custody for 14 days in connection with a Rs 371 crore corruption scam. The case involves the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation, which was set up when Mr Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party was in power.
Mr Naidu – who is being taken to the jail in Rajahmundry – was produced before an anti-corruption court in Vijayawada this morning amid tight security. The veteran politician told the court he had been falsely implicated for “political gains” and cited legal technicalities to claim “no well-founded accusation”.
The TDP leader’s lawyers argued that since he was Chief Minister at the time of the alleged offences, sanction to investigate – ” a public servant in discharge of official duties” – could only have been given by “the person who removes the Chief Minister from office… i.e., the Governor of Andhra Pradesh”.
Since this was not done, “there is statutory violation and hence remand has to be rejected,” Mr Naidu -whom police have called “prime conspirator and beneficiary” of the alleged scam – had told the court.
Andhra Pradesh Police’s Crime Investigation Department said Mr Naidu, who is 73 years old, was non-cooperative during interrogation and replied vaguely saying that he did not remember certain issues.
The remand report also referred to Mr Naidu refusing an offer of a helicopter to take him from Nandyal, where he was arrested, to the court in Vijayawada. He was then taken by road and the police have pointed to obstructions by TDP workers as “an intimidation of law officials by virtue of his position”.
“He was asked questions based on files that form part of the evidence. But, to all the questions, he was non-cooperative and replied vaguely – that he could not recollect facts. In this regard, the report was drafted in the presence of the mediators and duly attested by him,” the prosecutors said.
The remand report did, however, acknowledge that Mr Naidu is not a flight risk.
What Is The Skill Development Corporation Scam?
The multi-crore scam deals with money allocated to the Department of Skill Entrepreneurship and Innovation by the state, and incorporated into the 2015-16 budget.
According to the CID, inquiries revealed serious irregularities, specifically, before any expenditure by private entities, the then government provided an advance of Rs 371 crores, representing the entire 10 per cent commitment by the government.
Most of the money advanced was diverted to shell companies through fake invoices, with no actual delivery or sale of items mentioned in invoices, officials said.
CID officials have also said senior government officials, including then chief secretary IYR Krishna Rao, made notings in related files. They had objected to the advance release of funds to Design Tech and noted that this was being done on the instructions of N Chandrababu Naidu.