Social activist Usha Thakur has been arrested by Noida Police for her alleged involvement in a blackmail case involving Union Minister Mahesh Sharma, who has alleged that Rs 2 crore was demanded from him. Three journalists have so far been arrested for allegedly attempting to extort money from Sharma.
Rajveer Singh Chauhan, SHO Sector 20, said: “During investigation, evidence came up which highlighted Usha Thakur’s involvement. A lot of information has also been shared by Alok, owner of a now-defunct TV channel and a Delhi-based journalist, who was arrested earlier. Usha has been sent to judicial custody and further investigation is pending.”
According to police, on April 23, a journalist, Nishu, was arrested by the Noida Police from Sharma’s Kailash Hospital. An extortion letter was recovered from her, which allegedly asked Sharma to provide Rs 45 lakh by the same evening and the rest later. It claimed a “sting video” would be released if he didn’t comply. Noida Police claimed they had not found anything objectionable in the video.
Alok, the alleged kingpin of the extortion circle, used to run a Noida-based TV news channel called Pratinidhi, which was shut due to financial crunch post demonetisation.
According to police, he allegedly began planning sting operations to extract money from high-profile people. The journalist arrested on April 23 said during questioning that they had conducted similar sting operations on four politicians, police claimed. The videos were made at Alok’s behest, Nishu told police.
Alok was arrested from Kolkata along with another former Pratinidhi journalist, Nisha. Thakur’s alleged role came to light when she was questioned on the day of Nishu’s arrest as she facilitated the meeting between the minister and the accused scribe. “I have no idea what these journalists were up to. I am close to Dr Sharma and I was helping him out in the campaign. I am being dragged into this,” Thakur had said.
According to police, the tablet on which the alleged video was made was collected from Thakur’s house, hours before the meeting took place.
“I have no complaint against Usha Thakur. This is the prerogative of the police. She is like my elder sister. I don’t even know what Alok has said during questioning. I am busy with the election campaign,” said Sharma after Usha’s arrest. Police said they are looking for another former Pratinidhi employee, who has also been named in the FIR.