The three absconding accomplices of inspector Bhaskar Dere - the Crime Branch (CB) control officer arrested for extortion - are informants and would zero in the potential victims (guthka dealers), police have found.
The three accused - Salim, Babloo and Rafiq Shaiq, along with Dhere, would roam about in a Suzuki Swift (MH-04-EQ-34).
Their modus operandi was to approach guthka dealers, posing as policemen. They would threaten to arrest the dealer for selling guthka despite it being banned. To evade arrest, they asked dealers to cough up money.
"During the course of investigations we learnt that Dhere and his accomplices had been operating for around two months. However, so far, we have not found any other case against Dhere," said Surendra Paithankar, senior police inspector, Goregaon police station.
The matter was brought to the notice of the guthka association after Dhere and the trio extorted Rs1.4 lakh from Shafiq Shaikh, the proprietor of the Maharashtra Gutkha Centre. Shafiq registered a case against them on July 5.
On Saturday, the group targeted a Malad-based guthka dealer, who paid them Rs30,000. Immediately after, the victim called Shafiq, who asked him to follow their car.
Dhere was intercepted and nabbed by the Dindoshi police, and later handed over to the Goregaon police, while the other three managed to flee.
Dhere has been attached with the CB control for a few months, before which he was with the Navi Mumbai police.
The accomplices - Salim, Babloo and Rafiq - were police informants, who would be sent as decoy customers where the police wanted to conduct a raid, to verify the information received.
Dhere, who has been suspended by the Mumbai police commissioner, Arup Patnaik, was produced in the court and has been remanded to police custody till July 13.