With the arrest of a suspended head constable, a journalist, two women and a middleman, the district police on Tuesday claimed to have busted an extortion gang that allegedly blackmailed people, including NRIs, by threatening to book them in rape cases and releasing their objectionable videos and pictures with women.
The two women were used to trap NRIs, traders and an LIC agent in the latest case. They would call their potential victims to their place on the pretext of seeking advice or purchasing an LIC policy.
The accused have been identified as Pawanjeet (40), the suspended Punjab Police head constable; Nek Raj (35), a journalist working for a vernacular newspaper; Sonia (32), Surinder Kaur (45), and Santokh Singh (55).
Another accused Vijay Kumar is yet to be arrested, the police said.
The women would then take the person to the bedroom and force him to undress or threaten to make noise.
Soon after this, the suspended policeman and the journalist would make a video and record the statement of women and then extort money from the victim through a middleman by threatening with releasing the tape.
The gang has been active since June last year and the accused have admitted to have extorted money from 20 men in Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Phagwara.
Since victims do not come forward to lodge a complaint fearing stigma in such cases, the police also faced difficulty in cracking the case.
The incident came to light when Ashok Bhatia, an LIC agent and resident of Greater Kailash in Phagwara, told the police that he received a call on October 17 from Sonia who faked as Paramjeet Kaur. She told him that her husband had gone to Belgium and she wanted to send some medicines and besides purchasing an LIC policy and requested him to come home.
Bhatia said he reached Sonia’s house and informed her about his arrival. Sonia asked him to come to her room to check documents for the policy. As soon as he entered the room, another woman came and asked him to undress.
He alleged that a man in police uniform along with a clean-shave man who claimed to be a journalist came by and videotaped the incident. The two men told him that they would release the footage before the media.
The policeman threatened to register a case of rape against him, he added. Another man reached there and took him outside the house.
He alleged that the third man asked to settle the case at `1.4 lakh for deleting the pictures and videos. He handed over the amount after two days and they deleted the objectionable material in front of him.
He further said he did not reveal anything to his family and started inquiring about the accused. He found that they were running a racket.
Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Sanmeet Kaur said `1.47 lakh has also been recovered.
The SSP said the accused were running the racket since June last year and extorted money from 20 persons, including NRIs.
They will be produced in a local court on Wednesday.