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UP BJP leaders get extortion messages on WhatsApp, cops suspect Gulf link

The MLAs, most of whom are from the ruling BJP, have complained that they got text and WhatsApp messages asking them to pay Rs 10 lakh or their families will be eliminated within three days

india Updated: May 23, 2018 23:35 IST
Rohit K Singh
Rohit K Singh
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh,Uttar Pradesh MLAs,UP MLAs
A special investigation team has been set up to probe into the extortion threats received by about 12 Uttar Pradesh MLAs.(PTI File Photo)

At least 16 Uttar Pradesh politicians, including 14 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) and a former MLA, have received extortion messages on WhatsApp this week from someone claiming to be a racketeer based in the Gulf, prompting chief minister Yogi Adityanath to order an investigation.

A BJP politician in Rajasthan also received an extortion message and calls from an unknown number on Sunday and Monday. The state police are probing the matter.

A senior police official said the messages to UP politicians are purportedly from Bahrain-based gangster Ali Baba Budesh. They threaten to harm the politicians’ families if they do not pay ~10 lakh each. The messages demand the payments be made in the cryptocurrency bitcoin. CM?Adityanath has directed the police to enlist the anti-terrorist squad and the STF to find out who is behind the threats. Additional director general, law and order, Anand Kumar, said a special investigation team has been formed under the supervision of the inspector general of the STF Amitabh Yash to probe the threats.

He said senior superintendent of police (SSP) of STF Abhishek Singh would assist the IG in the probe.

Kumar said the police team was probing all possibilities and was in touch with central intelligence agencies to cross-check the allegations of Budesh’s involvement. No activities by Budesh have been reported in India for at least five years.

In Mumbai, the police downplayed the possibility of Budesh’s involvement. The last known threat that Budesh made in India was to filmmaker Rakesh Roshan in 2000, when Roshan launched his son Hrithik in the movie Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, said Mumbai Police. Budesh then wanted overseas rights for the film, which Roshan was not willing to give him. Budesh’s men shot Rakesh Roshan and injured him.

“Budesh since then has not made any calls to India. We are in the know of the person who has called the legislators in Uttar Pradesh. But the caller looks to be an impersonator and is not Ali Budesh,” said a senior police officer on condition of anonymity.

At least 14 BJP MLAs and two others have reported threatening messages on WhatsApp in the last three days, according to deputy inspector general (DIG), law and order, Praveen Kumar.

“In all the cases, the extortionist has threatened to target their families in case the amount is not paid. The content of the message in all these cases is the same,” Kumar said.

He said the threat perception to the MLAs was being reviewed and their security would be increased if required. “The SSPs have been asked to report the matter to DGP headquarters if any other MLA or politician turns up with a similar complaint,” Kumar added.

The MLA from Maholi constituency of Sitapur, Shashank Trivedi, who stays in Lucknow, lodged a complaint with Mahanagar police station on Tuesday, said the station inspector Vikas Pandey.

On Monday, the MLA from Debai constituency in Bulandshahr, Anita Lodhi Rajput, lodged a complaint with the police in Ghaziabad, where she stays. She said the extortionist had threatened to wipe out her entire family if the money was not paid within three days.

Similar messages were sent to 12 other BJP MLAs and one former MLA who either lodged first information reports with the police or verbally complained about the threats.

In Jaipur, the police said former state president of BJP and Rajasthan MLA Ashok Parnami received death threats from an unknown number on Sunday and Monday. The police are investigating the matter.

The police said Parnami received WhatsApp messages on Sunday demanding R10 lakh. The messages said that if the demand was not met, Parnami and his family would be killed. “The messages were in Hindi and sent from an unknown foreign number. A case has been registered and we are investigating to find out more about the matter,” said Rajpal Godara, assistant commissioner of Gandhingar police station.

In a statement, Parnami said, “I received the messages on Sunday. On Monday, I got WhatsApp calls from the same number, but I did not answer them. On Monday evening, I informed Commissioner Sanjay Agarwal about it.”

(With inputs from HT correspondents in Mumbai and Jaipur)

First Published: May 23, 2018 16:42 IST