Delayed implementation of anti-extortion app

VIBHA VERMA | JANUARY 04, 2024, 01:35 AM IST

In November 2020, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant received an extortion message on his personal mobile number from an international number. The sender also left a life-threatening message, prompting an immediate First Information Report by the Panaji police. The accused remains unknown till date.

Over two years later, in March 2023, the CM announced the launch of a mobile app to register extortion complaints. This promise, made during the Budget session for the ongoing financial year, was in the wake of a series of complaints from hoteliers, and shack owners of extortion demands along with cases of honey trap.

“I assure the people of Goa that my Government will show Zero Tolerance to any form of extortion threats. A mobile app will soon be launched to report such cases directly to the Police, enabling swift coercive action as per the law,” was CM Sawant’s 2023-24 Budget speech.

While the project is yet to take shape, the State government is gearing up to present its next year’s Budget in the following month, with new promises and assurances.

Sources told The Goan that the government is moving at a slow pace in implementing the mobile app. The concerned departments are only passing the buck on each other.

The Goa Police was bombarded with similar offenses in the recent past, which led to the setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT). Honey trap, extortion of tourists at pubs/clubs along the coastal belt and sextortion cases came to the fore while some hoteliers and shack operators also alleged of getting extortion demands to continue playing loud music beyond the permissible time of 10pm.

Not too long ago, the Goa police busted an interstate extortion operation involving beauticians recruited by a criminal gang for honey-trapping wealthy businessmen visiting Goa from Gujarat.

The gang comprising 15 women, a lawyer, and middlemen, followed instructions from a woman imprisoned in Gujarat on a murder charge. They filed 3-5 false FIRs in Goa, using threats of false rape accusations for extortion.

The investigation began when similar complaints from Gujarat women alleging rape and sexual assault were received by different police stations and later found to be false.

The SIT summoned one of the businessmen who had allegedly ‘settled’ a complaint by transferring Rs 2 lakh via Google Pay to one of the gang members outside a police station. Although the intimacy between the girl and the businessman was consensual, she threatened him of filing a ‘false rape’ case after suddenly disappearing from where they met. The racket was busted. 

In yet another complaint of extortion in the fishing business, three persons were arrested at the fag-end of last year based on a complaint by a Ratnagiri native Satheeb Ramchandran alleging the accused allegedly threatened and demanded ‘protection money’ of Rs 50,000 to continue in this business.

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