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ED seeks EC action against K’taka Congress MLA on Rs 42 crore funds during 2023 polls

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NEW DELHI/BENGALURU, April 23: The ED has written to the Election Commission seeking action against a Karnataka Congress MLA for “mobilising” about Rs 42 crore funds for unlawful transactions, including alleged bribing of voters, during the 2023 assembly elections in the state, official sources said.

The Enforcement Directorate has also made a similar communication to the Karnataka Lokayukta establishment under section 66(2) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act asking the latter to go through the evidence collected by it against Nara Bharath Reddy, the legislator from the Bellary City seat, and register a case.

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The ED had raided the premises of Reddy and some others linked to him in Karnataka and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh on February 10 as part of a money laundering investigation linked to charges of alleged illegal mining and some “fraud” land deals.

Three days later, it issued a press statement saying “crucial evidence was seized along with unaccounted cash of Rs 31 lakh, establishing involvement of Bharath Reddy, his personal assistant Rathna Babu and others in mobilising substantial amounts of cash for illegal payments.”

“According to the incriminating evidence, Bharath Reddy mobilised approximately Rs 42 crore in cash over a few months, just before the assembly elections, utilising the funds for unlawful transactions,” the ED had claimed.

The agency, sources told PTI, recently wrote to the EC stating that out of the Rs 42.07 crore fund, a “significant portion” was allocated for cash distribution to voters and other election-related expenses, including alleged payments made for securing party tickets.

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It shared details with the Commission stating that documents seized during the searches show a “detailed account of cash collection for distribution to voters in exchange for their votes, implicating Nara Bharath Reddy in a scheme aimed at influencing voters during the 2023 Karnataka legislative assembly elections.”

An email sent to Nara Bharath Reddy did not elicit a response on these charges made against him.

The ED informed the poll panel claiming that the 34-year-old MLA has “failed to disclose his election-related expenditure to the Election Commission and failed to account for the source of the substantial funds expended during the elections.”

The agency has sought action against the legislator from the poll panel, saying these alleged actions constitute a “violation” of the Representation of the People Act, including bribery, corrupt practices, and failure to disclose election expenses.

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The agency said it recovered handwritten records of cash transactions during the February raids at a total of 14 premises in the two states which indicate disbursements orchestrated by Reddy and his brother-in-law, Rajvardhan Reddy, during the 2023 elections.

It has claimed in its communication to the EC that the personal assistant of Nara Bharath Reddy “admitted” to drafting these documents as per his instructions.

The ED’s searches were part of a money laundering case filed against the MLA, an alleged linked person Surya Narayana Reddy and others after taking cognisance of an FIR filed by the Gandhi Nagar police station to probe charges of illegal granite mining and some land deals by allegedly misusing general power of attorney (GPA).

It was claimed by the ED in its February 13 issued statement that Sharath Reddy (brother of Nara Bharath Reddy) made “undisclosed” investments in some foreign-based companies.

“The accused individuals were found to have invested in properties under benami names and obtained suspicious loans from relatives, utilising their bank accounts without their knowledge,” it alleged in the statement.

Nara Bharath Reddy defeated his nearest rival Gali Lakshmi Aruna of the Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Paksha by over 37,000 votes during the polls that were held in May 2023. (PTI)





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