Bengaluru: Cigarette “burns” have left a scar on the face of Bengaluru City Police in the time of Coronavirus. The Central Crime Branch (CCB) is in the soup after several mid-level police officers were caught for taking a huge bribe for allowing the illegal sale of cigarettes during the first 50 days of lockdown.
In an ironic twist of tale, the state government has suspended Prabhushankar, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), for fraud and misappropriation, who himself is part of the Fraud and Misappropriation Wing of the Central Crime Branch. Two other inspectors have also been suspended.
Prabhushankar is accused of running an extortion racket with some of his subordinates. According to top police sources, they used to blackmail cigarette dealers and stockists who were illegally selling the nicotine butt in the black market for an exorbitant price.
According to insiders, they targeted big cigarette traders and dealers who were into black marketeering. They would raid them, confiscate cigarette bundles worth lakhs and sometimes even crores, threaten them with dire consequences and extort huge money to hush up the deeds.
They believed to have amassed over Rs.1.75 crore from these things. So far over Rs 50 lakh has been recovered from them and the city police are conducting investigation to go deeper into the racket.
In one such incident, they had confiscated cigarettes worth over Rs.25 lakh from dealer and demanded Rs 20 lakh to save him. When he pleaded helplessness to arrange such a big money, the rogue cops sold the same cigarette in black market for Rs 15 lakh and pocketed the entire proceeds.
This incident has embarrassed the city police and the higher ups are running for the cover. State Home Minister Basavaraja S Bommai has ordered a thorough probe into the whole incident.
A police officer on the condition of anonymity revealed that this was just a tip of the iceberg as many rogue cops want the lockdown to continue like this for a long time so that they can make money by blackmailing the businessmen.
“What has come out in the public is nothing. It runs deeper. From liquor to cigarettes, they are into everything,” the police official said.
During the initial days of lockdown, cigarettes were sold for as much as Rs 1,000 a pack, that is, just one cigarette costing Rs 100. A few days ago, a bootlegging of liquor incident linked to the police had hit headlines, raising serious questions over the functioning of city police.
The Director General of Police (DGP) of Karnataka, Praveen Sood, has promised strict action against the corrupt cops.