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04 October 2023

Indian police suspended over crime gang party claim

Five police officers in Mumbai have been suspended over claims that they spent Christmas Eve partying with some of the city's most notorious criminals, the state government said.

Grainy photographs and security camera footage broadcast by the Indian media appeared to show the officers dancing with key figures from a gang led by alleged underworld boss Chhota Rajan.

One of the officers, Deputy Police Commissioner VN Salve, headed intelligence gathering and security for visiting dignitaries while another, Assistant Police Commissioner Prakash Wani, was a top crime branch official.

Ashok Chavan, the chief minister of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, told reporters on Sunday that he had confirmed the officers' suspension.

"Action has to be taken if something is wrong," he said.

Salve protested his innocence, describing the allegations against him as "baseless".

"I have not attended any party hosted by criminal elements," he was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

Wani alleged that the images were fabricated, adding: "It seems to be a conspiracy against me."

Chhota Rajan, who is wanted for a string of offences, including murder, extortion and drug trafficking, is a former aide of Mumbai crime lord Dawood Ibrahim -- one of the world's most wanted men.

Organised crime syndicates held a firm grip on the city until the 1990s, controlling land, smuggling and even financing Bollywood films, though police have recently fought back and regained some control.

The revelations come amid high-profile claims of corruption, intimidation and cover-up in the case of a top police officer in northern Haryana state who was convicted of molesting a 14-year-old girl in 1990.

S.P.S. Rathore allegedly connived to persecute Ruchika Girhotra, her family and friends after she dared to lodge a complaint. The teenager later committed suicide, tormented by the stress she believed she had inflicted on her family.

The officer is alleged to have used his position to bribe his way out of previous investigations, sparking claims that confidence in India's public officials has hit rock bottom.


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