Goa, Dec.16: The South Goa politician accused of raping a Russian is now missing, says the Goa police. The disclosure is a huge embarrassment for the Goa government which has already been criticized for its mishandling of the case.
Earlier this month, a Russian who works at a five-star hotel claimed that local politician John Fernandes raped her in his car after they had dinner together. On Monday, the High Court cancelled the anticipatory bail granted earlier to Fernandes by a lower court. Fernandes was expected to report to a police station after that, but hasn’t shown up.
Russian officials have written to the Chief Minister of Goa, Digamber Kamat, objecting to the attitude and approach shown by the police and local officials, including the Chief Minister. The Russian Consulate has objected to recent remarks by the Goa chief minister in which he questioned what the alleged victim was doing late at night with Fernandes.
The Consulate has also pointed out that the Goa government has a poor track record in solving recent rape and murder cases. Hinting that the government is not able to ensure the safety of foreigners, it has offered to advise Russian nationals not to leave hotels in Goa after 10 pm.
The rape case also created a controversy in Parliament on Monday, after a Congress MP from Goa suggested that the victim had herself to blame. The MP, Shantaram Naik, said that while rape is a heinous crime, "...an alleged rape of a lady who moves with strangers for days together even beyond middle of the night is to be treated on different footings."
From the start, the police’s investigation has shown gaping holes. The police claimed it couldn’t find Fernandes and therefore couldn’t arrest him; NDTV, however, had no trouble tracking down the politician who discussed the allegations against him at length in an interview.
The police also did not search Fernandes’ car, the alleged scene of the crime, for several days.
The alleged victim has complained officially to the Russian Consulate that she has been pressured repeatedly by the police to drop the case, and that she feels unsafe.
Last week, the Goa Tourism Minister, Fransisco Pacheco, in a letter to the state’s chief minister, has complained that this and other cases like the rape and murder of British teenager Scarlett Keeling are damaging the reputation of Goa. Pachecho wrote, the police in Goa is either "grossly incompetent or influenced by other factors", as a result of which complaints were not properly investigated.
In the Keeling case, the police presented little evidence against the Goa shack-owner accused of raping and murdering the teenager last year. The CBI is now handling the investigation.
Excerpts from Russian Consulate’s letter to Goa government:
"The Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Mumbai would like to express its astonishment by the process of investigation of the case of the rape of the Russian citizen....Many days have passed by the accused was not subjected to the medical examination to ascertain injuries to his body. The vehicle used by Mr John Fernandes to commit the offence was not examined. The clothes the was wearing on the day of the offence were not preserves for chemical analyses. During this time all possibility to gather evidence was destroyed."
"Because of poor security situation in Goa foreign tourists might become victims of crime. That may distract them from coming to this beautiful state. We understand from media reports, that your Government announced that tourist should not be out late at night. As by being so, they themselves would be responsible if they become victims of any crime. We would be happy to inform our citizens not to remain outside after 10 o’clock if you supposed that it would assist in their security."
We are deeply concerned about the criminal situation in Goa. As you know, the number of Russian tourists coming to your state is steadily growing. At the same time there is an increase of crimes against women.