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Journalist Vinod Verma arrested for alleged extortion bid on Chhattisgarh minister

The journalist allegedly was in possession of a sex CD involving a minister in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2017 13:15 IST
Vinit Koneru and Ritesh Mishra
Vinit Koneru and Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times, Ghaziabad/Raipur
Journalist arrested,Former BBC journalist,Chhattisgarh Police
Chhattisgarh police arrested journalist Vinod Verma (pictured here) from Indirapuram in the National capital region (NCR) for allegedly trying to blackmail a minister with a sex CD.(Vinod Verma/Twitter)

The Chhattisgarh Police arrested a former BBC journalist, Vinod Verma, from his Ghaziabad residence early Friday morning for allegedly trying to blackmail a Chhattisgarh minister with a sex CD.

Verma who was arrested barely 12 hours after a complaint was lodged at the Pandari police station in Chhatisgarh’s Raipur district by the BJP’s state working committee member Prakash Bajaj, has been booked under sections 384 and 507 of the Indian penal code (IPC) for extortion and intimidation.

The case was handed over to the crime branch superintendent of police (SP) Ajatshatru Bahadur Singh who led a team to Delhi to investigate the matter.

“Verma was arrested by Chhattisgarh Police from his Indirapuram residence. He was brought to police station here for questioning. A case has been registered against him in Pandari police station in Raipur,” a senior police official said.

Sources said that Verma was arrested for possession of a sex CD involving a minister in the BJP government in Chhattisgarh and for making an extortion attempt.

Verma is also a member of Editors Guild of India and had been writing about socio-economic and cultural affairs of Chhattisgarh.

Verma allegedly made a phone call earlier this week to a Bajaj, close aide of the BJP minister in question and demanded a ransom.

Following Bajaj’s complaint, a team of Chhattisgarh Police raided a shop in Delhi and confiscated 1000 prints of the alleged sex video. Based on interrogation of the shopkeeper, the police raided Verma’s house in Indirapuram and seized a large number of CDs, his laptop and pen drive before arresting him.

Raipur’s Inspector General of Police, Pradeep Gupta told reporters at a press conference on Friday the confiscated CDs could malign reputation of a person and hence the arrest was made immediately.

Gupta said, “An FIR was registered on 2pm yesterday. The FIR did not name Vinod Verma as accused. But the CDs have been found in possession of Verma. We are obtaining his remand to bring him to Raipur.”

“Prakash Bajaj gave us a complaint claiming that someone called his landline number and threatened him to release a pornographic CD of his boss,” the inspector general said.

The call was traced to the shop in Delhi which was raided. Verma is said to have ordered the reprints of the CD, Gupta said.

“We don’t know whether the call was made by Verma or someone else. It is a matter of further investigation,” Gupta said in the press conference.

Earlier in the day, Verma’s arrest sparked off a war of words between the Chhattisgarh units of the Congress and the BJP.

Chhattisgarh state Congress president, Bhupesh Baghel has condemned Verma’s arrest and accused the BJP-ruled state government of muzzling democratic values.

“The alleged sex scandal involving a sitting state minister surfaced last week. I also have the CD, but it was not released since we are examining the forensic credibility of the CD. The journalist was arrested for the possession of the same CD. Possessing a CD is not a crime. Verma has not circulated the CD in form. His arrest shows the BJP government is trying to snuff out the issue,” Baghel said.

The Aam Admi Party also criticized the arrest with its leader Ashutosh, a former journalist, questioning whether it was an attack on the press.

After the backlash following Verma’s arrest, BJP spokesperson in Chhattisgarh Shrichand Sundarni refuted claims about the alleged CD and accused the Congress of conspiracy.

“These controversies do not affect BJP. The party is ready for any probe into the matter,” Sundarani said.

First Published: Oct 27, 2017 10:00 IST