The Kerala Police’s Crime Branch will investigate the allegations of blackmail and sexual abuse against five priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, ANI reported. The church had sent the priests on leave on Monday.

On Friday, State Police Chief Loknath Behera issued an order appointing Ernakulam Crime Branch Superintendent of Police Sabu Mathew to head the investigation team. Inspector General S Sreejith will monitor the case, The New Indian Express reported.

The National Commission of Women had on Wednesday written the Kerala police chief to seek investigation into the allegations.

The priests are accused of blackmailing and sexually abusing a woman for three years. Three of them belong to the Niranam diocese in Kerala, and another to the state’s Pandalam diocese. The fifth priest is from the Delhi diocese.

In a letter to the church, the woman’s husband, from Tiruvalla in Kottayam district, claimed that the priests used his wife’s confession, which is meant to be a secret under church laws, to blackmail her. He named eight people in the letter and sought action against them.

According to a leaked audio clip, purportedly of a conversation between the man and a church official, the man said that his wife was sexually abused by a priest before she got married. After the woman confessed this to another priest, he also began abusing her, the man claimed, adding that the priest then passed on the information to three of his colleagues, who exploited her too. He is also reportedly heard saying that celebrities from the church are forcing him to not escalate the matter.