A probe into an alleged bid to extort money from a Malayalam film actress has exposed a racket in which film personalities and models in Kerala were used as carriers of smuggled gold, police said.
Kochi City Police on Monday arrested celebrity hair stylist Harris, who hails from Thrissur district, in connection with cases pertaining to extortion of actress Shamna Kasim and some models.
Since last Wednesday, seven persons have been arrested for allegedly threatening and extorting cash from Kasim. The gang allegedly approached her parents with a fake marriage proposal. After a few meetings and phone calls, the parents became suspicious and complained to the police. One of the gang members, who was posing as the prospective bridegroom, had allegedly demanded Rs 1 lakh from Kasim, which led her family to suspect the proposal.
Later, eight models came forward with complaints that they had been kept in captivity and money was extorted from them. These models were allegedly forced to work as carriers of gold.
Kochi City Police Commissioner Vijay Sakhare told the media that gang members Muhammed Shareef and Rafeeque contacted Kasim through Harris, who has close links with the film industry. “More victims are coming forward, hence we are looking at registering more cases,” he said.
On Monday, police summoned actor Dharmajan Bolgatty based on information that he had been in touch with some of the arrested persons. After deposing, Dharmajan told the media that Harris got Kasim’s number from him. Dharmajan said the gang earlier contacted him over phone but he did not take it seriously.
Police sources said there was no evidence so far to suggest that the arrested persons had used film personalities and models as carriers of smuggled gold. They allegedly lured women with the promise of huge remuneration if they worked as carriers of gold. The gang would allegedly extort gold ornaments from them to meet immediate expenses, and promise to pay them back once the gold was ferried. After pocketing the valuables from the women, the gang would abandon them, and threaten them against revealing anything.
However, smuggling of gold using celebrities is rampant, police sources added.
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