Twenty days after Hindustan Times carried out a sting operation to expose a statewide extortion racket run by Punjab police personnel in connivance with call girls, the Ludhiana police on Wednesday arrested a sub-inspector and of his accomplices.
Wanted by Mohali and Chandigarh police too for similar crimes, Faqir Chand, a subinspector posted at Fatehgarh Sahib, was nabbed in a trap laid by officials of the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA), Ludhiana.
The gang, operating with Patiala as its base, had been running a blackmail and flesh trade racket with assistance from constables, including some dismissed from service or under suspension.
Active in various districts, including Mohali, Ludhiana, Patiala, Bathinda, Amritsar and Sangrur, Faqir Chand had been luring girls from Punjab and its neighbouring states through misleading newspaper advertisements promising “free education“ sponsored by philanthropists or “white collar“ jobs.
Following the HT expose, Ludhiana police commissioner Ishwar Singh had constituted a special investigation team (SIT) headed by additional deputy commissioner of police (ADCP) Harsh Bansal.
Though the police did not reveal much on Wednesday’s development, sources in the department said cops carried started the operation on Tuesday night, leading to Faqir Chand being arrested “red handed“.
Facing arrest in a similar case -in which he had extorted over Rs 3 lakh from two men in Mohali after “trapping“ them through call girls associated with him -Faqir Chand had managed to give the slip to Mohali police two months ago, and had since been evading arrest. A case is registered against him in Mohali.
On Tuesday, the Ludhiana investigation team received a tip-off that gang members were moving in the Daresi Ground area in Ludhiana.
A trap was laid with a decoy customer, which led to two of Faqir Chand’s accomplices, including a girl from Himachal, being arrested.
The kingpin himself managed to escape. However, the police later raided his hideouts and finally arrested him on Wednesday.
Preliminary investigations have revealed the gang used to release newspaper advertisements mostly offering matrimonial and massage services. A constable would drop a girl at the client’s place or a hotel, and then inform Faqir Chand.
The sub-inspector, accompanied by a posse of his men, would then “raid“ the hotel room or client’s place, and then threaten the client with legal action to extort money.
The other modus operandi was to target men driving alone on roads.
A girl would approach the victim for a lift. She would sit next to the driver.
Faqir Chand would soon give the car a chase and threaten the man with an immoral trafficking case, unless he paid up.
Faqir Chand and his accomplices have been booked under Sections 384 (extortion), 389 (putting person in fear of accusation of offence in order to commit extortion) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
A large number of such incidents had gone unreported as victims feared loss of face, investigators said.
The Mohali police said that after a case was registered against Faqir Chand, two of his victims, who were robbed of Rs 1.62 lakh and 1.20 lakh, besides other valuables and credit cards, had agreed to testify against him.