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Telengana party in trafficking turmoil

Hyderabad, April 25: Andhra Pradesh police have launched a search for Telengana Rashtra Samiti MLA Kasipeta Lingaiah for alleged involvement in a human trafficking case.

Late tonight, the party suspended A. Narendra, the No. 2 in the TRS hierarchy and former Union minister, for alleged links to the racket.

A CID team is probing charges that Lingaiah, an MLA from Nerella in Karimnagar, obtained a passport in January for another woman in his wife Tara’s name. A fake ration card was allegedly furnished with the passport application for the purpose of identification.

The 55-year-old lawmaker has been absconding for the past two days from his Karimnagar and Hyderabad homes. A CID official said his mobile phone is switched off.

Police sources said Lingaiah had given a letter from chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy to the chief of the US embassy’s consular section to ensure that the visa for his “wife” was issued quickly.

Lingaiah has denied the charges. He told a local newspaper he neither visited the US nor had he taken his wife abroad. “Both my passports (one of them being the diplomatic passport he enjoys) were with a travel agent, who is absconding for the past two weeks,” he said.

But the police said their investigations showed that the legislator had visited the US along with another lady who impersonated his wife. He returned after a week, alone.

Lingaiah isn’t the only TRS leader facing the trafficking heat. The personal secretaries of party MPs K. Chandrasekhar Rao and Narendra are being probed, too.

Rao and Narendra, both former Union ministers, have said they have nothing to do with what their aides did, but the police suspect the hand of a large network of traffickers in the alleged racket.

Narendra insists his detractors in the TRS have engineered reports that point to the involvement of his personal secretary Ramana Murthy. Rao, the TRS chief, has said his secretary Mohan Murthy could not be involved.

The CID, probing many fake visa and passport cases detected at Begumpet airport and other airports in the south, is believed to have zeroed in on several well-known figures.

“Our investigations into more than a dozen people, including legislators, bureaucrats and corporate executives, are at crucial stages,” said an officer.

Of the nearly 150 suspects being investigated in fake passport and visa cases, almost 50 are those with considerable political and commercial influence, police officials said.

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