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Telangana ACB begins questioning top official in disproportionate assets case

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Telangana on Wednesday began questioning state’s Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) Secretary and Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited Chief General Manager (Land Management) Shiva Balakrishna.

Following the ACB court order, the agency took him into custody from Chanchalguda Jail, where he has been lodged since his arrest in a disproportionate assets case following searches at his properties on January 24. He was brought to the ACB office in Banjara Hills for interrogation.

The Principal Special Judge for Special Police Establishment and Anti-Corruption Bureau (SPE & ACB) cases had on Monday sent Shiva Balakrishna to ACB’s custody for eight days. The questioning will continue till February 7.

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The anti-graft agency will be focusing on transactions from 15 bank accounts of Balakrishna, who earlier served as the director (planning) of the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA).

The ACB officials will be conducting a probe into the approvals given by him as HMDA director. Some builders who were given permission are also likely to be called for questioning.

The agency has reportedly received complaints about irregularities committed in giving approvals for various projects. It has sought relevant files from the HMDA as part of the investigation. The approvals given for a Rs 1,000 crore project in Puppalaguda are also said to be under the ACB scanner.

Meanwhile, the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD) Department has placed the official under suspension. The department said in the order that Shiva Balakrishna was allegedly in possession of assets disproportionate to the known sources of his legal income, as had become apparent in the ACB searches.

The ACB registered a case under Section 13(1)(B) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988 (as Amended in 2018) against Shiva Balakrishna. Simultaneous searches were conducted at his residence and 14 other places of his relatives, close aides, and suspected benamis.

During the searches, cash of Rs 99,60,850, gold ornaments weighing 1,988 gm, and silver ornaments weighing around 6 kg were found in his house and other places. Several incriminating documents about the assets possessed by Shiva Balakrishna in both his and his kin and aides’ names were unearthed.

According to ACB, he was found in possession of assets worth Rs 8.26 crore and disproportionate assets worth Rs 7.62 crore. Market value of the movable, as well as immovable properties, is likely to be significantly higher than the document value.

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