A fixed-pay teacher, who was recently promoted to the post of headmaster in-charge, was arrested along with two of his accomplices on charges of forgery and extortion.
The master sahib had procured several SIMs with the intention of extorting several high-profile individuals.
"What was more, the victims were also given bank account numbers to deposit the agreed amount. It was all planned as cash-less transaction," according to one police officer.
However, the plan did not work, as all of the eight targets - Bima Bharti, former minister Brishen Patel, MLA Prof Chandrasekhar, MLA Amla Sardar, MLA Neeraj Kumar Babloo, Madhepura circle officer, Dr Bharat Bhusan and OSD of welfare department - he attempted to extort money from, filed FIRs from Patna, Madhepura, Saharsa, Supaul and Purnia districts.
All victims claimed that they received extortion calls from three different numbers - 7258865614, 7261878008 and 7260923963 - between July 6 to July 8. In each instance the caller asked the respective individual to deposit Rs 10 lakh each into a specific bank account.
Patel, a former minister in Nitish and Manjhi cabinet, said he thought the caller had dialled a wrong number. “When I asked him did he know whom he was talking to, the caller said, "Patel ji se baat ho rahi hai. I thought I must inform the police," Patel said.
Patna SSP Vikas Vaibhav took the matter seriously and two separate FIRs have been registered with Shashtri Nagar and Sachivalaya police stations. During investigation, the police found that the callers had sent SMSes from Madhepura district.
ADG (headquarters) Sunil Kumar said, on getting information Madhepura SP Ashish Bharti investigated the matter and found that those SIM cards used for demanding extortion were procured through fake documents and voter IDs. He arrested three persons identified as-Niranjan Kumar Bhagat alias Babloo Master, in-charge principal of Singhar middle school, Asgar Ali and Santosh Kumar (SIM card seller).
All of them are residents of Maghaili Diara village under Alam Nagar police station in Madhepura.
They had sent extortion threats via SMSes to around 40 people prior to this.
Police have also recovered 17 SIM cards, three cell phones, voter ID cards, bank account numbers and mobile numbers of several government and administrative officials, besides MLAs and ministers, were recovered from the possession of the arrested people.
“It was a big breakthrough for the police as pressure was increasing following repeated complaints from a number of influential people, including a minister, former ministers, and several legislators and officials, about threats and extortion demands,” said Sunil Kumar, adding that the Babloo Master was trying to settle scores with one Mohammad Sajjad and Rajesh Ram. The two SIM cards procured were on their names.
The ADG said, Bhagal and Ali were in jail in separate cases. Further investigation, as well as interrogation of the accused, is currently underway to determine the full size and extent of the extortion racket.