A gang that extorted money from politicians, ministers and bureaucrats by impersonating as top ranked political leaders of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was busted by the Delhi police on Friday.
The racket’s kingpin Sanjay Tiwari, a 40-year-old man who claimed to be a journalist, and his associate, Gaurav Sharma, 23, were arrested on Wednesday from near ITO in Delhi following investigation into a similar case.
Ravindra Yadav, joint commissioner of police (crime) said that posing as Ram Madhav, BJP’s national general secretary, Tiwari allegedly tried to extort ₹10 lakh from Amar Kumar Bauri, minister of revenue, registration and land in the Jharkhand government.
Police said the two were allegedly demanding money for party funds for the upcoming elections in Punjab, Goa and Uttar Pradesh.
“The unknown caller made eight to 10 calls to me and my PA. I personally spoke to Shri Ram Madhav and he confirmed that no such calls were made by him or from his office,” Bauri told HT over phone.
According to Yadav, Tiwari was previously involved in 17 cases of cheating, blackmailing and extortion registered in Delhi and other states since 2005. He was arrested twice in the past, last time in October 2016 when he and his accomplices allegedly tried to extort money from former BJP’s South Delhi MLA Anil Sharma by falsely claiming to be organising a ‘hawan’ on behalf of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
“Tiwari was bailed out in November 2016 and since then he disclosed to have cheated at least 10 high-profile politicians, including former deputy chief minister of Manipur Achoba Singh, on one pretext or the other. He took R50,000 from Pramila Rani of BJP from Assam by impersonating as PA to the minister of development of north-eastern region (DONER),” said Yadav adding none of the matter was reported to the police.
Madhur Verma, DCP (crime), said that on Tuesday, Bauri’s personal secretary Shushant Mukherjee filed a case and claimed that an unknown caller posing as Ram Madhav was calling the MLA for the past three days and asking him to contribute funds for elections. On verification from the office of Madhav, Verma said, it was learnt that no such communication was ever made.
Sources in BJP said that Madhav’s office was alerted by the Jharkhand MLA, following which they complained to the cops. “The extortionist had made similar phone calls to some leaders in the North East, pretending to be Madhav. He allegedly had earlier masqueraded as Sonia Gandhi’s PA Madhavan,” said a source.
“A case was registered and we took up the investigation,” said Verma adding their probe pointed the needle of suspicion on Sanjay Tiwari and his aides, as they were booked in the past in similar crimes.
Tiwari and his aide Gaurav Sharma were arrested when they arrived near ITO to allegedly collect the extortion money. Two mobile phones that were used for making extortion calls were seized from them. Tiwari’s interrogation revealed that he had a long criminal history and operated very meticulously, said police.
Tiwari allegedly used to make a thorough research about his targets, mostly politicians and government officials who had high aspirations, and then lured them with temptations of giving election tickets, a bigger role in party or other favours. He posed as a person of great clout of any national political party or some ministries and convinced the victims that he will arrange their ascendance in the party ranks or get their files and proposals cleared.
“Such was the confidence and attitude of Tiwari that his targets would actually forward him their credentials and resumes to lobby for them. They believed him, got entrapped and on enticement, paid him huge amounts in the garb of party donations or election funds,” Verma said adding Tiwari also blackmailed some politicians in the past through sting operations.
“Tiwari has claimed that he earlier worked with former Tehelka magazine editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal and as an associate of famous film director Tanuja Chandra in Mumbai for some months. While working as PA to an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, he hit upon this modus operandi,” Yadav added.
Tiwari never collected money in person and instead engaged his chain of staff on payroll for money collection. The staff so hired were also unaware of Tiwari’s intentions. This way, identity of Tiwari was never disclosed to the victims.
- *R50,000 from Pramila Rani Brahma of BJP from Assam impersonating as PA of Minister in the ministry of development of north eastern region.
- *R50,000 from Bhika Sole, BJP’s Nagaland state president, by posing as PA to national general secretary of BJP in the name party funds.
- *R10,000 from HR Joshan, ex- Congress MLA from Punjab by impersonating as Madhavan, PA to Congress president Sonia Gandhi by promising him ticket in the forthcoming Punjab assembly elections.
- *R10,000 from Achoba Singh, ex-deputy CM of Manipur as contribution in constructing a new building by posing as Bhaiyyaji Joshi of RSS.
- *R10,000 from P Tusiang Sang, parliament secretary, Meghalaya, Congress, impersonating as PA in the ministry of Doner.
- *R5,000 from Nilo Rangma, former Congress MLA from Nagaland, by posing as Sonai Gandhi’s PA
- *R2,000 from KS Thanga, minister in Mizoram Congress, by impersonating as PA in Doner ministry.