The gang of people who tried to extort money from actor Shamna Kasim have a history of cheating and threatening women, confirm Kochi police.
On Thursday, investigating officers received two more complaints, from an actor and a model, against the same gang that was after Shamna.
The new complainants accused the group of extorting money and gold ornaments from them.
With this, the police have formed a special investigation team led by Assistant Commissioner of Police Thrikkakara to probe the racket in detail.
Police have received information that the gang consists of seven men who were operating an elaborate racket which involved impersonation, sexual abuse and gold smuggling.
These men have threatened several women for money after getting in touch with them by posing as wealthy businessmen. They have also sexually abused a few women and forced them to get into gold smuggling, confirmed Kochi Range IG Vijay Sakhare.
Based on Shamna Kasim’s family’s complaint, four of the accused were identified and arrested on Tuesday. These men hail from Thrissur district and have been identified as Vadanapally native Rafeeq, Ramesh from Kadavanoor, Sharath from Kaipamangalam, and Chettuva native Ashraf.
“We are yet to track down the other three members and are investigating if there are any more people involved in the racket,” Vijay Sakhare added. The police are also investigating if anybody associated with the film industry was involved in the racket.
“How the gang got Shamna’s number is a point of investigation. We are checking if this racket involves anyone from the industry. So far we have not found any leads” IG Vijay Sakhare added.
Explaining their modus operandi, the IG stated that the gang got phone numbers of the women and established a relationship with them and their families by posing as rich men.
In Shamna’s case, a member of the group got close to the actor and her family by posing as ‘Anwar Ali’ - an affluent person from Kozhikode who had business interests in Dubai.
Four accused who tried to extort money from Shamna Kasim. Picture credits: Manorama News
The accused deceived the actor and her family further by getting imposters to pretend to be his ‘mother’ and ‘father’ and speak on the phone with them.
Anwar Ali even proposed marriage to the actor and told her that he would be visiting her house in Kochi with his relatives, to ‘officially formalise the alliance’.
However, last week a group of six men claiming to be Anwar Ali’s ‘uncles and cousins’ visited Shamna’s house in Kochi and demanded Rs 1 lakh from her, claiming that Anwar was short of funds for a project he was starting.
The actor received extortion calls from Anwar who threatened to end her career by releasing messages, phone conversations and images of her.
It was following this that Shamna’s mother filed a complaint with the police. Upon investigating, it was relieved that ‘Anwar Ali’ was a fake name used by the accused man to con the actor.
“Prior to this, Shamna had also received a phone call from another man asking if she was interested in smuggling gold. All of these people seem to be working together,” a police officer from Maradu, who recorded the arrest of the four men, told TNM.
In the case of other victims, the gang got in touch with the women and forced them into smuggling gold.
They further promised to give the women a commission for their services, IG Vijay Sakhare explained.
“After this, these men would ask the women to either contribute some cash or gold ornaments for the ‘business’. Once they received this cash or gold, they would change their SIM cards and abscond. In some cases, the women have been sexually exploited as well,” Vijay Sakhare said.
The IG added that the sexual abuse allegations will be probed only if the police receive a complaint from victims.
“We were able to track down these imposters now as Shamna is a big star and had decided to file a complaint. However, we believe there are several women who have been cheated by the men similarly,” the IG added.
Shamna Kasim is a popular south indian actor who has worked in over 50 films, predominantly in Tamil and Malayalam cinema. Some of the films she has acted in are Suriya-starrer Kaappaan, Jayaram and Vijay Sethupathi starrer Marconi Mathai and Mammootty’s Oru Kuttanadan Blog.
The arrested men have been booked under sections 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.