Salesman Sandeep Sahu, 24, who was arrested by a special task force (STF) team from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, on Thursday for allegedly making extortion calls to Bollywood director Mahesh Bhatt, confessed that he had made similar calls to actors Shahrukh Khan and Akshay Kumar.
Sahu worked at an investment company for a few years. He then opened two shoe shops at Aminabad at Lucknow after borrowing funds from private investors. However, his businesses failed and he became bankrupt.
During interrogation, Sahu said he would visit Mumbai often. As he had heard of film personalities who would lend money to fans in need, he tried to seek financial aid from them. When no one took him seriously, he thought of extorting actors by posing gangster Bablu Srivastav, said a police officer who interrogated Sahu.
Sahu found the mobile numbers of Bollywood actors and directors on the internet. He posed as Srivastav and started making threatening calls to them.
He called Bhatt several times and threatened to kill the producer’s family if he did not pay Rs50 lakh. He reiterated this through text messages and WhatsApp messages. Sahu gave Bhatt his Lucknow-based bank account number for the funds transfer.
The police traced Sahu’s address using his bank account number. Bhatt registered a police complaint with the Juhu police on Wednesday, following which the anti-extortion cell (AEC) of the Mumbai crime branch took over the probe. It shared the information about Sahu with the STF.
The STF caught Sahu from Gomati Nagar in Lucknow. A team from Mumbai left for Lucknow to bring Sahu to the city.
The Juhu police registered a case under section 387 (putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt in order to commit extortion) of the Indian Penal Code. Bhatt took to Twitter to congratulate the Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh police for nabbing the extortionist.
A bolt from the blue in the form of an extortion call & threat to my family was nipped in the bud by the MH & UP police in tandem.Gratitude!— Mahesh Bhatt (@MaheshNBhatt) March 2, 2017
This is not the first time that Bhatt has been threatened. In November 2015, the Mumbai police arrested 13 people, allegedly from the Ravi Pujari gang, for hatching a plan to harm Bhatt. They recovered arms from the accused. A few of them were part of a gang that fired outside producer Karim Morani’s house. Bhatt’s security was stepped up after the arrests.
In June 2006, an unidentified man opened fire at Bhatt’s office in Juhu. Bhatt was not in the building at the time. Ravi Pujari later called the office, claiming that his henchmen were behind the firing.
Bhatt has made several award-winning films such as Naam, Kassh, Daddy, Aashiqui, Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin and Zakhma. His daughters, Pooja and Alia, have acted in several movies.