An official of the $4-billion Avantha Group and his accomplice have been arrested for making extortion calls to the tune of Rs.25 crore to the company's director while the latter was travelling with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his recent three-nation tour.
The calls were made by a 47-year-old Jaspal Singh, a senior executive, when the company's director Anil Bhargava was travelling with the prime minister as part of the corporate delegation.
Jaspal Singh, a general manager of corporate affairs of the group's Ballarpur Industries unit, was arrested on Friday, three days after the filing of complaint about the extortion calls.
"Both the accused are in police custody till April 20," Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Sanjeev Yadav told IANS.
Singh's associate, Deepak Kishore, 43, who travelled to Mumbai to make the calls on April 11 and 13, was also arrested.
On Bhargava's behalf, a complaint was received by the Delhi Police's Special Cell on Tuesday (April 14).
"Threatening calls were being made to Bhargava and SMSes containing details of family members of the victim were sent on the cell phone number of Gautam Thapar (the chairman of Avantha Group) as well as on the number of the personal secretary of the victim demanding an amount of Rs.25 crore as protection money from the recently concluded sale of a power project of the company in Chhattisgarh to the Adani Group," Yadav said.
The caller had also threatened to eliminate the victim and harm his children who are studying abroad in case the demands were not fulfilled.
"Massive human efforts coupled with deft technological penetration paid fruit when it was revealed that the person after making the threat calls from Mumbai, arrived in Delhi on April 13," said the official.
The police laid a trap and arrested the person, later identified as Kishore, from his residence at Lal Kuan area in south Delhi's Badarpur locality, the official said.
"Kishore later disclosed the role of Jaspal Singh, the mastermind behind the conspiracy, who was also subsequently arrested. The mobile phone and the SIM used in the crime were seized from them," said Yadav.
Police said Singh, being among the senior officials in the Thapar Group, was privy to a corporate deal of Rs.4,200 crore made by the Avantha Group, a conglomerate Indian company led by Thapar Group.
"Investigation has revealed that Singh knew details of the company's management including their children and hatched a conspiracy to extort money from them to the tune of Rs.25 crore.
"He also knew about a recently concluded business deal and believed he could blackmail them. We are also looking at Jaspal Singh's financials to determine the motive," the official said.
Police said Singh hired Kishore and made a plan to execute the extortion threats using his intimate knowledge of the affairs of the conglomerate as well as his proximity to the corporate bosses.
Kishore, a bus driver in Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) on a contract basis, was lured by Singh on the pretext of a handsome amount of money.
Police said Singh hired Kishore to blackmail Bhargava and gave him money to procure a SIM card and a cell phone to make the threat calls.
"Kishore arranged a SIM card from Manipur and made calls from Mumbai," police said.
"Singh was confident that the management would never report the extortion attempt without involving him. However, his luck ran out when Anil Bhargava went directly to the police," said another police official.
Singh, born in 1969 in Mohali in Punjab, had joined Ballarpur Industries Limited as manager in 2005 and has been a regular Thapar employee for 10 years.
Gradually, Singh gained the trust and confidence of his bosses and became their valued liaison man for all corporate affairs and was made the head of corporate affairs of Ballarpur Industries, India's largest paper manufacturing company.