Andhra CID arrests Naidu, names him ‘prime conspirator’ in Skill Development Corporation ‘scam’

In March this year, while speaking in the state assembly during a discussion on the alleged scam, CM Reddy described Naidu “as the kingpin” of the scam and alleged “the entire scam amount reached him [Naidu] and his men through shell companies”.

Officials in the chief minister’s office (CMO) told ThePrint that the scam pertains to a Rs. 3,356 crore crore deal that the Andhra government and the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation purportedly entered into with the German company Siemens, for skill development projects in the state. The project agreement was allegedly set into action soon after Chandrababu Naidu became Andhra CM in June 2014.

While the state was to contribute 10 percent, Siemens committed to 90 percent of the funding, sources told ThePrint.

However, according to sources in the CID, the Siemens headquarters later said it had no involvement or knowledge of the project agreements made.

“The grant-in-aid never came from Siemens, but the TDP government hurriedly paid 10 percent of the project cost, equalling Rs 371 core (including taxes) in five tranches in a short period of three months,” Jagan had said in the assembly, alleging the “scam” as being “skilfully scripted, directed and executed by criminal minded Naidu.”

While the former CM in 2015 did reportedly inaugurate 17 skill development centres virtually across the state as part of the project, the Jagan Reddy government, and the state CID have alleged that while a small part of it was spent on the project, money was also allegedly diverted to shell companies. According to the Jagan Reddy government, Naidu is a direct and main beneficiary of the misappropriated funds.

“One of the central issues in this case is the manner in which a note from the Skill Development Corporation, showing the estimated cost as a Detailed Project Report (DPR), was presented to the cabinet, bypassing established government procedures. This irregularity, combined with the swift approval and release of funds, has raised serious questions regarding adherence to rules, regulations, and due process,” a CMO official said.

According to the official, “the contract and government orders appear to be at odds, as funds were released without a clear contractual basis. Naidu allegedly gave orders for the immediate release of funds, even when objections were raised by some finance department officials. Key officials within the government, including the principal secretary finance and the chief secretary, have allegedly played a role in facilitating the release of funds.”

The official added: “Siemens conducted an internal inquiry and provided a statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) emphasizing that their company had no involvement in the Joint Venture (JVO) or the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) issued by the government.”

ThePrint reached state CID chief N. Sanjay over phone and text messages for more details on the case. The report will be updated once a response is received.

TDP leaders have gone on protest against Naidu’s arrest and sought central intervention.

In March, Soumyadri Shekhar (also known as Suman Bose), former managing director (MD) of Siemens Industry Software (India) was among those arrested by the ED in the skill corporation scam case. The AP CID have also made several arrests in the case in the past.

Also read: At NTR centenary celebrations, Rajinikanth all praise for Naidu & his ‘Vision 2047’ plan for Andhr

Naidu foresaw arrest?

Naidu was arrested from Nandyala town in Rayalaseema, while the 73-year-old TDP leader was on a party tour.

After medical check-ups, Naidu was taken to Vijayawada in his own convoy, protected by the National Security Guard (NSG), said the CID. “Though we offered to transport him in a helicopter, the former CM refused,” N. Sanjay told the media.

High tension prevailed in the area following his arrest, and a heavy police contingent has been deployed to keep the situation under control.

TDP leaders, including Naidu’s son and former state minister Nara Lokesh, sat on protests and resorted to road blockades at various places in the state.

Several senior TDP leaders condemned the arrest as “unfair” and an example of “vengeance” politics on the part of CM Jagan Reddy. TDP MP Ram Mohan Naidu has meanwhile written to President Droupadi Murmu, PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, appealing for the Centre’s intervention “against the illegal arrest of Naidu”. ThePrint has a copy of the letter.

The TDP leader’s arrest comes at a time when Naidu is also facing heat over the IT department’s notices over “an undisclosed income” of Rs 118 crore, allegedly received as kickbacks from certain infra companies for dubious sub-contracts given during his tenure as CM.

The former CM seems to have foreseen his arrest. While on a party tour in Anantapur district Wednesday, the TDP supremo, while addressing the masses, had said that he might be arrested by the police or there might be an attack on him.

The same day, Naidu also claimed that the Jagan government was mounting pressure on several corporate representatives to name him in graft cases so as to register cases against him.

The Jagan government has also accused Naidu of large scale misappropriation of funds, and graft in the land pooling for and execution of the Amaravati capital city project.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Amid uncertainty over its return to NDA fold, TDP plans freebies to counter ruling YSRCP in Andhra


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