The Inside Story
A27-year-old man masterminded a plot involving fake cops to extort Rs 3.32 lakh from his accountant friend, the Mankhurd police said after arresting all 10 people who were part of the crime recently.

Five of the suspects are members of a Pune NGO, the National Crime Investigation Bureau (NCIB), which is ironically engaged in public efforts to curb crime.

Main accused Abdul Hameed Shaikh, from Mankhurd, extorted the money from his 44-year-old friend, Yashwant Ramchandra Chalke, in August last year, but the police unravelled the entire conspiracy last month. According to Inspector Chandrashekhar Nalavade, Abdul Hameed roped in the five NCIB members to pose as Crime Branch officers and conduct a 'raid' at the Mankhurd office of Yashwant, who audits financial records of housing societies.

The five men, all from Pune, first extracted Rs 32,000 from Yashwant after threatening to arrest him over bogus charges. Abdul Hameed, who pretended to help Yashwant to avoid police action, later staged his own arrest and pressured Yashwant into giving Rs 3 lakh to secure his release.

Abdul Hameed, the police said, came up with the plan as he was in desperate need of cash. He was arrested last week, on March 26. The five NGO members were arrested on Sunday. They have been identified as Mozim Shaikh (30), Rashid Shaikh, Naeem Makdum (22), Azharuddin Tamboli (23) and Sujeet Lokhande (25).

Four other conspirators, including Abdul Hameed's father and a woman who runs a beauty salon in Mankhurd, have also been held. The 34-year-old woman, Wahida Shaikh, acted as a go-between for Abdul Hameed and the five NGO members.

All 10 have been booked under IPC sections 170 (impersonating a public servant); 384 (punishment for extortion); 385 (putting person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion); 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property); 420 (cheating) and 34 (common intention).

Both Yashwant and Abdul Hameed are residents of Lalubhai Compound, Mankhurd. They became friends while working for an accounting firm. Yashwant later quit the job and started auditing records of housing societies. Abdul Hameed came up with the plot to extort money from Yashwant in August last year. "One day suddenly, some men barged into my office and started checking my files. They said they were Crime Branch officers from Pune and had received several complaints that I was manipulating financial records," Yashwant said.

The five NGO members who posed as cops arrived in a rented Tata Sumo and even flashed identity cards of their organisation to make the raid look genuine.

"I told them that I had never fudged any records, but they insisted that I pay Rs 32,000 to avoid arrest. I got scared and sent my friend (Abdul Hameed) to an ATM booth to withdraw the sum from my account."

The next day, Abdul Hameed's father met Yashwant and falsely claimed that his son had been arrested by the Crime Branch because he tried to intervene during the raid.

"He blamed me for Hameed's arrest and pressured me into lending Rs 3 lakh for his release," Yashwant said. The accountant later narrated the incident to some other friends, who expressed suspicion over the men claiming to be Crime Branch officers.

In December last year, Yashwant filed a complaint with the Mankhurd police. The plot was uncovered after cops questioned Abdul Hameed's father. All the suspects were arrested between March 13 and March 30.

"When they succeeded in extracting Rs 32,000 from the victim, they decided to extort more money by staging the main accused's arrest," Inspector Nalavade said.

He added that Abdul Hameed first discussed the plot with the beauty salon owner, who helped him rope in the NCIB members. "When the police told me Abdul Hameed was the mastermind, I was shocked. I thought he was my friend," Yashwant said.

Santosh Pandey, national in-charge of the NCIB, said it was shocking that some of its members, who had pledged to prevent crimes, were involved in one. "This is the first time our members' names have been linked to a crime. We will suspend them," he said.

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