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Ex-BBC journalist Vinod Verma arrested by Chhattisgarh Police over allegations of extortion

Sources have told The Indian Express that Verma was allegedly in possession of a sex tape of a Chhattisgarh minister, and allegations against him were that he was making extortion calls.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 27, 2017 1:10:58 pm
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Senior journalist Vinod Verma was arrested by the Chhattisgarh Police early Friday morning from his Ghaziabad residence in Uttar Pradesh over allegations of extortion. Verma was taken to the Indirapuram Police Station at 3.30 am, where he was reportedly questioned for hours.

Sources have told The Indian Express that Verma was allegedly in possession of a sex tape of a senior Chhattisgarh minister, and allegations against him were that he was making extortion calls. Verma will be presented before a court in Ghaziabad later today.

A member of the Editors’ Guild of India and a freelance journalist, Verma has also worked with the BBC and Amar Ujala. According to sources, he is now a consultant to Chhattisgarh Congress president Bhupesh Baghel and shuttles between Raipur and New Delhi.

In March 2016, Verma, along with two other journalists, was part of a fact-finding committee to verify and assess the arrests of journalists in Chhattisgarh as well as threats and challenges faced by journalists in the state. The committee found that journalists were “working under tremendous pressure”. There was a “sense of fear” among journalists in the conflict-affected region of Bastar and even those working in the state capital Raipur complained of their phones being tapped, the report stated.

“Verma has been arrested by Chhattisgarh Police in a case of extortion registered at Pandri police station (Raipur),” Uttar Pradesh Police said on Twitter. He has been charged under sections pertaining to extortion, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement.

According to the Raipur Police, Verma was arrested following a complaint lodged by Chhattisgarh BJP leader Prakash Bajaj on October 26. Bajaj, in his complaint, said a caller claimed to be in possession of objectionable videos and that he threatened to make them public if he (the minister) did not pay up. Sources in the Chhattisgarh government admitted that the arrest was related to a video that was in Verma’s possession.

The case was transferred to the Crime Branch, which, during investigation, interrogated a video operator in New Delhi who revealed Verma’s name. The video operator, according to the police, said Verma had asked him to make 1,000 copies of the objectionable CD.

Police say that have confiscated around 500 CDs, pen drives, a laptop and a dairy, from his Ghaziabad residence. The content will now be investigated.

Baghel condemned the arrest and has called for the journalists immediate release as well as a probe into the alleged sex tape.

“We condemn the arrest of Verma. I also got the CD on the basis of which the arrest has been made. If that is the basis of (police) action, then it is highly condemnable. (It is) an attack on the fourth estate of democracy. The speed at which action has been taken by the government proves that the person in the video is indeed a minister. To save their minister, they are attacking a journalist.”

AAP spokesperson Ashutosh tweeted: “Vinod Verma Ex BBC n Amar Ujala Digital Editor has been picked up most mysteriously by UP N Chhatttisgarh Police 3.30am. Attack on press?”

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