Telangana snooping row: Phones of judges, opposition leaders among 1,200 that were allegedly tapped

SIB ex-DSP Praneeth Rao, alias Praneeth Kumar, confessed to using intel from phone-tapping to target leaders of Opposition parties.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published May 29, 2024 | 9:17 PMUpdatedMay 29, 2024 | 9:17 PM

Telangana Phone tapping case accused police officers

A day after the confessional statements of suspended and arrested Additional Superintendents of Police (AdSPs) N Bhujanga Rao and Mekala Thirupathanna came out, more skeletons tumbled out of the closet of the Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB) of Telangana Police on Wednesday, 29 May, in the infamous phone-tapping case.

Praneeth Rao, alias Praneeth Kumar, who was the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in the SIB when BRS was in power, explained in his confessional statement the modus operandi he adopted in tapping the phones and how he used the intelligence thus gathered to target leaders of Opposition parties.

The objective was to help the then-ruling BRS move cash ahead of the Assembly elections in November 2023 and intercept the Opposition leaders’ vehicles that were shifting cash.

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Major revelations

In his confessional statement, Praneeth Rao said he resorted to eavesdropping on the conversations of Opposition leaders.

He is understood to have said that he had tapped into 1,200 phones of leaders of Opposition parties, their family members, real-estate developers, and even judges.

He said he had taken the help of the Conversion Innovation Lab to tap the phones. He admitted using 17 computers handled by the Special Operations Team (SOT), comprising 56 staff members.

Praneeth Rao also said he suspended the phone-tapping operations as soon the polling for the Assembly elections was over, and destroyed all traces of evidence after the Congress came to power in the state in December.

He said that the then SIB chief T Prabhakar Rao, before resigning his position, asked him to destroy the evidence.

Accordingly, he replaced 17 hard discs with new ones in the computers at the SIB. The original hard discs had sensitive information about his operations.

Praneeth Rao said he subsequently destroyed all 17 hard discs with the help of a cutter and burnt other devices that had more incriminating evidence.

He reformatted all the USB pen drives and hard discs in laptops and dumped them in the Musi River at Nagole and Musrambagh in Hyderabad.

The cellphones and formatted pen drives were thrown into the Begumpet nala.

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Other disclosures

There were other sensational disclosures in the confessional statements of suspended and arrested AdSPs N Bhujanga Rao and Mekala Tirupanna which came out on Tuesday.

In his statement, Bhujanga Rao admitted to tapping the phones of judges and lawyers who dealt with cases in which BRS leaders were involved.

They used to listen to the conversations on the mobile phones of the targets and keep the information to exert pressure on them to do their bidding, with the ultimate aim of helping the then-ruling BRS.

Bhujanga Rao said then SIB chief Prabhakar Rao used to instruct him to carry out such operations, which would help BRS.

One such operation was to allegedly force a businessman named Sridhar Rao to buy electoral bonds worth ₹13 crore for BRS.

Police took advantage of the fact that Sridhar Rao had serious differences with his business partner Sambasiva Rao.

They told him that if he purchased the bonds, it would do good to him as there were already several criminal cases against him.

He also paid ₹2 crore to the police for settling the dispute with Sambasiva Rao.

When BRS chief and former chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao decided to contest the assembly elections from Kamareddy, the SIB swung into action.

It created a WhatsApp group and used to share information on the moves and movements of BJP candidate K Venkataramana Reddy and current Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy’s brother Kondal Reddy since Revanth Reddy also contested from Kamareddy.

Police managed to seize ₹56.84 lakh cash that belonged to Congress leaders in the constituency.

Another former SIB AdSP, Mekala Thirupathanna, reportedly admitted in his confession statement that the SIB’s aim was to seize money that belonged to Congress leaders and allow green-channel passage to the money the BRS leaders moved from one place to another.

He said his team was entrusted with the task of eavesdropping on about 40-50 Opposition leaders.

They then relay the information to the task force teams who used to intercept the vehicles of Congress leaders and seize the money.

He said they seized — among others — ₹90 lakh that belonged to Congress leader Gali Anil Kumar, who is close to the current incumbent chief minister A Revanth Reddy; ₹1.99 crore from a few other Congress leaders who had a rapport with Revanth Reddy; ₹7.5 crore from those close to incumbent minister Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy; and ₹3 crore from the same people in another instance.