Former Indian cricket captain Saurav Ganguly is likely to be questioned by the Andhra Pradesh Crime Investigation Department officials, in connection with his involvement with a fraudulent scheme launched by a Hyderabad-based first generation entrepreneur by allegedly swindling crores of rupees from the AP State Minorities Finance Corporation (APSMFC). Saurav Ganguly is supposed to be the brand ambassador for One-Card-One-Nation (OCON) project launched by entrepreneur Chanduri Venkata Koti Sai Kumar, who claimed to be the managing director of Onecard Techno Services Limited.
The project is aimed at integrating the images of a wide range of cards into a single card having digitally-embedded information, so that the users could use it in all ATMs and swiping machines in various sale points. Beginning with credit cards and debit cards, the Onecard would also merge identity card, driving license and PAN card in the coming years.
Saurav participated in the launch function held at Novotel Hotel in Hyderabad on August 26. The launch event was followed by a gala cultural show in which celebrities like Telugu actress Namitha, Indian Idol winner Sri Ramachandra and Telugu comedian Gundu Hanumantha Rao took part.
Sai Kumar, who was arrested by the CID sleuths on October 12 on the charges of siphoning of Rs.55.47 crore fixed deposits belonging to APSMFC in collusion with the officials of the corporation and banks, confessed to the investigating agency during the interrogation that he had paid Rs.1 crore to Saurav – Rs.80 lakh through cheque and the remaining amount in cash, for participating in the launch event and for being the brand ambassador for the project. The other celebrities were also paid handsome remuneration.
Sources in the CID said the authorities are contemplating questioning Saurav as to how Sai Kumar had got in touch with him and how the agreement for being brand ambassador had been entered into. The CID sleuths would also question the other celebrities, sources said, adding that they would be first served notices to appear before the investigating officers.
When contacted, Additional director general of police (CID) S V Ramanamurthy said the police had collected all the details of payments made by Sai Kumar to Saurav and other celebrities. “We have gathered from the bank transactions about payment of Rs.80 lakh to Saurav. We have not yet decided whether to call Saurav for questioning in connection with the ONOC project. Even if we question him, it would be for recording his statement as a witness,” he told Mail Today.
Sai Kumar also claimed to the media then that the project would be officially launched by President of India Pranab Mukherjee in November. However, it is not immediately known whether he really had sought an appointment with the President.
The scam came to light when the CID authorities were investigating into the complaints of misuse of scholarships meant for minority students to be disbursed through APSMFC. The authorities arrested Sai Kumar (who was then heading a software company called Swal Computers) and three of his associates Nanduri Venkata Ramana of Kondapur, Bonda Kesava Rao, a mediator for bank deposits and Naveen Sagar, assistant manager of Vijaya Bank.
With the collusion of corporation employees, Sai Kumar got Rs.55.47 crore worth fixed deposits belonging to APSMFC in various branches of Vijaya Bank transferred to 16 fake companies through cheques. Using the amount, Sai Kumar had bought 200 acres of land on the outskirts of Hyderabad. The state government had suspended IAS officer Md Ilias Rizvi, managing director of the corporation, suspecting his alleged involvement in the scam.
Sai Kumar had also allegedly collected lakhs of rupees from various people, promising them the franchise of ONOC. He told the CID sleuths that he had spent in all Rs.9.5 crore on the ONOC project, including remuneration paid to Saurav Ganguly.