Moneycontrol
Last Updated : Feb 18, 2019 10:33 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Pharma entrepreneur Jayaram Chigurupati death case shifts to Hyderabad police, mystery deepens

According to police, Rakesh Reddy allegedly killed Chigurupati over non-repayment of Rs 5.8 crore loan he had given to the latter.

Viswanath Pilla @viswanath_pilla
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Andhra Pradesh police who claimed to have cracked the mysterious death case of serial entrepreneur Jayaram Chigurupati, named Rakesh Reddy, a private financier as the main accused in the murder.

According to police, Rakesh Reddy allegedly killed Chigurupati over non-repayment of Rs 5.8 crore loan he had given to the latter.

Chigurupati came in contact with Rakesh Reddy three years ago, when he allegedly took help from Reddy to clear certain pending wages of workers at Techtran Polylenses, who were protesting after the company went for lockout and was unable to pay salaries.

Chigurupati bought the publicly-listed Techtran that is engaged in manufacture and export of plastic ophthalmic lenses, in 2010. The company ran into losses before it locked out in 2015, resulting in job losses for workers.

Chigurupati told this reporter that Techtran was struggling on account of Chinese dumping and shift of market from plastic to glass-based lenses.

Chigurupati was facing severe cash crunch situation as his other venture - a 24x7 Telugu news channel Express TV was also bleeding heavily.

The launch of the channel was itself a foolhardy decision, because 24x7 TV news is an overcrowded space, with over dozen channels competing against each other for an ever shrinking advertising pie. Most of these news channels are owned by politicians, realtors and businessmen, who underwrite losses to keep them afloat for serving their political and business interests. The rely on content such as political debates, crime, sensation and Tollywood entertainment.

Chigurupati said he launched the channel to change that, but his channel too was caught in the same morass.

With two badly managed companies bleeding him, he was struggling to pay bills and salaries, and was borrowing money from people such as Rakesh Reddy, with shady antecedents.

It was alleged that Rakesh Reddy has a criminal record, and is busy in real estate and other settlements.

Last India visit

But when Rakesh Reddy tried to recover the loan, Chigurupati avoided him, and wasn't accessible in person or through phone. That angered Rakesh Reddy.

Chigurupati lived with his family in Jupiter, Florida, and travelled frequently to India to manage companies here.

Reddy kept a track on Chigurupati's movements, and was biding his time.

As usual, Chigurupati came to India in early January to look after his business affairs. Two of his investments, Hemarus Therapeutics, that makes blood proteins, and Coastal Bank, a local area bank, though not making tonnes of money, but are doing okay.

During his latest visit that cost his life, Chigurupati was in India to replace the leadership of the bank. According to Coastal Bank website, it is said to be the first Local Area Bank approved by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in 1999.

The Vijayawada-headquartered bank operates in five prosperous coastal Andhra districts of Krishna, Guntur, West Godavari, East Godavari and Visakhapatnam, through 50 branches.

"Coastal Bank is filling the void left by the death of microfinance industry in Andhra Pradesh in a small way," said person who knew Chigurupati.

"This was his best bet to make a comeback," the above person said.

The bank's major business is micro loans targeting those under served by the conventional banking model. It lends at decent 13 to 14 percent interest rate to borrowers, employing banking correspondents who get a small commission on every loan.

For FY18, the bank made a profit of Rs 14.52 crore, with a loan book of Rs 348 crore.

Honey-trapped, tortured and killed

After he knew that Chigurupati was back in Hyderabad. Rakesh Reddy is said to have moved ahead with his plan.

Using a new SIM card, Rakesh Reddy allegedly created the WhatsApp profile of a woman on a name called Reena, who is believed to have invited Chigurupati  to come to a villa at Jubilee Hills.

Chigurupati just walked into the trap. His weakness for women was cited by multiple people as a reason for some poor choices he made, possibly including the one that cost his life.

He was allegedly detained by Rakesh Reddy and forced to make calls to a number of his close acquaintances including his niece Shikha Chaudhary for money.

What Chigurupati could fetch was just Rs 7 lakh. It was also alleged by police that Rakesh Reddy tried to transfer the house of Chigurupati in plush Jubilee Hills on his name, but soon realised it was also mortgaged.

Desperate and upset, Rakesh Reddy reportedly beat-up Chigurupati, a heart patient with three stents in his arteries.

Chigurupati could have died on the spot due to heavy blows. Rakesh Reddy  along with help of another person called Srinivas is then believed to have tried to cover up the murder as accident by abandoning the body at an highway near Nandigama of Andhra Pradesh.

The role of Shikha Chaudhary who was initially suspected, is yet to be established by Andhra Pradesh police.  There were allegations of Chaudhary being let off the hook, who allegedly had an affair with Rakesh Reddy for some time and is also director on Chigurupati's media venture and is seen as close to him, assisting his business.

Chaudhary in an interview to local Telugu channel denied having any role in the murder of her uncle, and said she hasn't been in touch with Rakesh Reddy for a very long time.

Chigurupati's wife Padma Shri expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which the Andhra Pradesh police investigated the case.

She filed a complaint in Hyderabad. The case will now be transferred to Telangana for further investigation.
First Published on Feb 8, 2019 09:53 pm
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