Bengaluru: Under the guise and cover of tracking smugglers of red sanders, the Karnataka police under former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy had tapped phones of dissident MLAs and also that of Sumalatha Ambarish, the well-known actor who defeated Kumaraswamy’s film-star son Nikhil Kumaraswamy in the Lok Sabha polls in April.
Fresh records show that the phones of Sumalatha and her supporters — actors Darshan and Yash, local political leaders and their associates — were tapped. These names were slipped into the list of persons being investigated for crimes like sandalwood smuggling and cricket betting.
Not just Sumalatha, the calls of Nirmalananda Swami, a popular and prominent seer of the Vokkaliga community that dominates the Mandya constituency from where she won, were also illegally intercepted. All this was done to snoop on the strategy and plans of the Sumalatha group.
During the heated election campaigning in March, audio clips of phone conversations of members in the Sumalatha her camp were released in the public domain. The actor had knocked at the doors of the Election Commission alleging that she was being placed under telephone surveillance.
Sumalatha is the wife of M H Ambarish, the former film star turned Congress and JD(S) mass leader from Mandya. She defeated CM Kumaraswamy’s son with the support of Congress rebels and the BJP.
In August, the BJP state government had ordered a full-fledged CBI investigation after a preliminary probe by Bengaluru Police revealed that largescale illegal tapping had allegedly occurred during the tenure of the previous JD(S)-Congress coalition government.
Kumaraswamy has brushed aside the allegations of illegal tapping of phones by the Bengaluru police during his tenure. “Phone tapping has occurred during the tenure of every chief minister. Let them investigate me if they want. There are no worries,” he said after the scandal emerged in public.
Sources say a regular investigation into a major red sanders smuggling gang from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh was used as a cover to carry out surveillance against political opponents. Probes into cricket betting and other illegal rackets were also used as a cover to snoop on politicians and journalists.
Following the scandal, the CBI has quizzed several police officers linked to a technical cell of Bengaluru Police which was authorised to tap phones of alleged smugglers for a limited period.
Sources said in many instances the calls intercepted illegally did not land at the technical centre of the Bengaluru police where tapping is authorised but on phones outside the system.
Former Bengaluru police chief Alok Kumar was extensively quizzed on the “unauthorized, illegal, unwanted manner” phone tapping. It was during his tenure that much of the alleged phone-tapping allegedly occurred.
Sources said as many as 30 phone numbers were tapped.