Even as opposition parties were coming down heavily on the Andhra Pradesh government for the call money racket, the ruling Telugu Desam party (TDP) government has granted Vijayawada police commissioner D Gautam Sawang leave from December 17 to 27.
Sawang had earlier appealed to the victims to come forward and lodge complaints in his office and had personally promised to look into the cases.
In his absence, one of his predecessors Surendra Babu will head the Special Investigation Team (SIT). Even as opposition parties cried foul that the move is to protect certain TDP leaders, police department denied any pressure from the ruling party, the Times of India reported.
"The chief minister selected Surendra Babu as he has previously served in Vijayawada. He will direct the officials and spare no one in the case," director general JV Ramudu told the media.
The racket started with the police arresting Y Ramachandra Murthy, a deputy engineer of AP Transmission Corporation and G Satyanand, who are alleged to be the brains behind the operation, along with a few private financiers.
Read: Andhra's call money racket: Loan sharks, political goons and forced sex work
According to The Indian Express, this was preceded by a complaint by a woman victim with the Machavaram police, where she alleged that her daughter and son-in-law were abducted by a financier after they failed to repay a loan of Rs 3 lakh, which they had taken at an interest rate of 30 per cent
Vijayawada Police Commissioner Gautam Sawang told the newspaper "This gangâ€™s modus operandi is to give loans to innocent women at very high interest rates, and when they are unable to repay on time, they threaten them and coerce them into handing over their houses or lands in lieu of the loan. There are allegations that in some instances they forced the women into flesh trade to earn the money to repay the loans. All this is under investigation."
The task force that made the arrests is reported to have found that the gang saw a turnover of Rs 600 crore per year.
A spate of complaints from victims of the racket and tip-offs prompted task force teams to conduct raids at 92 offices and houses in the city on Tuesday. A total of 57 persons were detained including 28 low level politicians. The police seized 938 promissory notes, 193 blank cheques, eight stamp papers, 310 other documents including properties and cash amounting to Rs 14.20 lakh in all.
Quoting sources, the TOI report also adds that Sawang applied for a ten-day leave a few weeks ago but the request was granted in due course.
Addressing the same press conference, Sawang said "I am going abroad to meet my children. My leave was sanctioned last month. A very efficient and able officer Surendra Babu will be in charge. So do not worry."
Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has also spoken up about the racket and said "Donâ€™t be afraid of call money organisers. Nirbhaya Act will be slapped on them if they harass borrowers. As leader of the Opposition a few years ago, I had asked the victims of micro-finance companies not to pay dues. I am very clear on this. Donâ€™t excuse and donâ€™t be lenient to any person, however big he may be. Else, they will take it as our weakness. And, it gives scope for rise of anti social elements."