A human trafficking charge has been added to the FIR against the gang of conmen that threatened and tried to extort money from Shamna Kasim on the pretext of a marriage alliance in Kochi. The sections dealing with human trafficking have been added after one of the three complainants - apart from Shamna – alleged that she was held against her will by the men in Palakkad.
On Thursday, investigating officers in Kochi received two more complaints against the gang from an actor and a model respectively, and one more woman came forward on Friday. The human trafficking sections were added based on an Alappuzha-based model’s allegations.
Five of the gang members, which consists of seven men in total, have been arrested so far. Those arrested include the accused who surrendered himself before the district magistrate in Kochi on Friday. According to the complainants, the accused deceived victims by posing as wealthy men and even proposing marriage to some of the women, including Shamna. Their elaborate racket included gold smuggling, impersonation, and extortion.
“They are a group of imposters who would deceive their victims, threaten them to get into gold smuggling and become carriers. Their modus operandi includes promising a commission to the victims for the gold smuggling activity. Later they would demand the victims to transfer money or gold to them, for the ‘business’. On receiving the amount, they would change their SIM cards and remain unreachable,” Kochi Range Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhare had told TNM.
Apart from new sections for trafficking, the FIR against the accused persons have been registered under sections 451 (house-trespass in order to commit offence punishable with imprisonment), 387 (putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt, in order to commit extortion), 511 (420) (cheating or dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 506(i) (criminal intimidation), 120 B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
Police also believe that the accused have also sexually exploited some of the women they targeted. However, no case has been registered in this regard due to lack of complaints.
“So far, we are not investigating sexual abuse angle as we did not receive a complaint in that regard. However, we have added various sections dealing with human trafficking and extortion to the FIR as one of the complainants had told us that the men had summoned her to Palakkad promising a job, and then later confined her illegally. We have also received complaints that the accused had forced the women to transfer money to their account. We are investigating all of these complaints now,” said, G Poonguzhali IPS, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, to a local channel.
Police are also probing the accused and their links to the cinema and modelling industries, if any, as most the complainants work in said industries. It also remains to be seen how the accused men got Shamna Kasim’s number.
The racket was exposed after Shamna Kasim’s mother filed a complaint at the Maradu Police station earlier this week after conmen attempted to hoodwink and threatened them to pay up Rs 1 lakh.
“Their way of speaking and the scripting of the entire scam - how they made their mother, father, sister and brother speak to my family was unbelievable. A few times, the man who spoke to and expressed interest in marriage, had demanded money from me. I told my mother who immediately suspected that something was wrong. She asked me to speak to him on video call. I told him the same, but he refused to come on the video call. This is when we started doing some investigation and figured that they were conning us,” Shamna told a local news channel.
Meanwhile, a special investigation team under Assistant Commissioner of Police Thrikkakara has been constituted and five groups are currently investigating the racket in Kochi.