Vijayawada: The Andhra Pradesh government on Wednesday ordered a judicial probe by a retired high court judge into the call money scandal that has shocked the state even as over 100 people allegedly involved have been arrested.
The decision to order the probe was taken here at the state cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.
The probe was ordered in view of the demand from various quarters following sensational disclosures by some women victims that they were sexually exploited for failing to repay the loans.
Briefing reporters on the decisions taken at the meeting, state Finance Minister Y. Ramakrishnudu said the scam also involved allegations of sex scandal, it was decided to constitute a judicial commission for a thorough probe.
The main opposition YSR Congress has alleged that many leaders of the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) were involved in the scandal, which surfaced in Vijayawada and Guntur.
Under call money arrangement, one can obtain loans by making a phone call to the lender, who comes home with the money and takes the loan seeker’s signature on documents.
The interest rate usually ranges from 120 percent to 200 percent. The lender also lays down the condition that he can demand return of the money over a call anytime and anywhere.
In many cases, financiers seized house, vehicles and other movable and immovable properties of the borrowers who failed to pay the loans.
The lenders even sexually exploit women. A woman lodged a complaint with police last week that she and her daughter were pushed into the flesh trade.
The call money scandal is estimated to be over Rs.600 crore in Vijayawada alone.
Meanwhile, in a state-wide crackdown, police have arrested 118 money lenders allegedly involved in the scandal. As many 123 cases were booked against them. Those arrested include leaders of TDP, YSR Congress and Congress.
In Vijayawada alone, 75 people were arrested. Vijayawada Police Commissioner Gautam Swang said they were taken into custody for examination,
He told reporters that he has requested the government to cancel his leave. “I will stay back to continue the investigations in the case,” he said while denying that there is any political pressure on him.
Raids were also conducted in other parts of Krishna district, Guntur, Prakasam, Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam, East Godavari, West Godavari and Kadapa districts.
Police said that during raids on the money lenders, promissory notes, property documents, cheques and other documents were seized. In some cases, police found signatures of borrowers on plain promissory notes.
In Viskhapatnam, three women lodged police complaints on Wednesday that money lenders tried to sexually harass and exploit them for not repaying the loans.
A woman said she borrowed Rs.1 lakh for a business and was asked to pay Rs.3,000 as interest per day. As the business ran into losses, she was unable to pay the interest. The money lender called her and threatened to kidnap her children.