The Mumbai police Crime Branch busted an extortion racket run by a group of television journalists on Wednesday. According to their modus operandi,they used to threaten local businessmen to expose them in public through sting operations and amassed huge amount of money. According to the police,the group has been operational for the past eight months.
The arrested accused have been identified as Zaheer Shaikh (30),Muneer Ul Haque Shaikh (22),Samshuddin Khan (46) and Shravan Sharma (26). They were arrested by Unit 7 of the Crime Branch on Wednesday,and have been remanded to police custody till February 10.
The racket was brought to the attention of the police after a complaint was lodged by Mohammed Rehan Shaikh (36),the proprietor of an e-ticketing shop Bilal Easy Travels and Bilal Trading at CGS Colony in Ghatkopar,who also deals in women garments.
We had been receiving complaints that a group,claiming to be journalists,was out to extort businessmen by threatening to expose them in public. They allegedly demanded a certain sum of money to be paid to them on a monthly basis. We were trying to follow up on these complaints,and we arrested the group on a complaint lodged by Mohammed Rehan Shaikh, said Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rakesh Maria.
According to the police,the complainant started receiving threatening calls,but he ignored them. On January 31,he again received a call asking him to settle the issue based on money. On February 2,he received a call asking him to pay up to avoid media exposure.
The following day,two people entered his office in the afternoon. One was carrying a camera and the other a mike. One of him introduced himself as the city editor of Crime India Lifeline TV News accompanied by another man who claimed to be a cameraman for the channel. They started taking footage of the office,and as soon as they found Rs 75,000 they accused the complainant of possessing hawala money. They demanded Rs 1 lakh from the complainant,threatening to telecast the footage on all major news channels, said Maria.
Despite pleading his innocence,the complainant had to pay them Rs 25,000,and promised to pay the remaining amount the following day.
After Rehan Shaikh approached the Crime Branch,the police laid a trap at his office the next day and arrested Zaheer and Muneer ¿ the city editor and the cameraman respectively. Enquiries reveal that Samshuddin and Shravan,who had rented an office at Dimple Arcade in Thakur Complex,owned their channel.
They were running this racket for the past eight months,and were receiving money ranging from a few thousands to even a lakh every month. They had deposited Rs 50,000 for the office and a monthly rent of Rs 13,000,and had even registered with the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association. The accused had even bought a TATA Sumo with the money, said Maria.
According to the police,Samshuddin was working with a local television channel before. Shravan has a prior extortion case registered against him.