Call centre racket: Gujarat police nexus with kingpin surfaces

Gandhinagar: The tip off leading to the hurried folding up of the Ahmedabad operations of the multi-crore Mumbai international call centre racket targeting US citizens is reported to have gone from within the Ahmedabad police itself, confidential sources said here on Thursday.

In the aftermath of the raids on the Mira Road and Thane call centres, a team of the Mumbai police swooped down on Ahmedabad, but ”interests” within the local police moved with lightning speed to not only ensure closure of the centres but also that the hard disc of the local operations also does not fall into the raiding party”s hands leading to spilling of the beans.

The absconding kingpin of the racket, 23-year-old Sagar Thakkar who ran 20 call centres in Ahmedabad alone with a minimum daily earning of over Rs two crore plus is reported to have enticed some key cops offering them ”benami” partnerships ranging from 15 to 25 per cent in individual centres. This ensured that the call centres operated with impunity through the night. Sources  say that the Prevention of Crime Branch (PSB) had raided the call centres at the Pinnacle Park in Prahladnagar area of Ahmedabad but it was more of a raid on”paper” and the raiding team informed that nothing incriminating had been found. Some months earlier also a raid had been carried out by the cops but the raiding party was called back on the intervention of a senior police officer. The police inspector, however, did manage to knock off a hefty sum though this information reached his superiors and he was summarily transferred thereafter.

Besides the local police station, both the PCB and the crime branch are in the crosshairs of the investigating cops after the Mumbai police realized that the local cops were in cahoots with the racketeers. It is common knowledge in police circles that ”haftas” were regularly feeding the local policing mechanism in exchange for protection and privilege.

The ambit of the probe is now extending to cover other cities like Surat, Vadodara and Bhuj in what is suspected to be a byzantine, wholly illegal operation generating over Rs 500 crore every month. Sagar had brought an Audi worth Rs 2.47 crore in an auction in Chandigarh and was given the key at the hands of  cricketer Virat Kohli.

Sagar who originally hails from Ahmedabad and had learnt the ropes while  employed with a local call centre while still in college, had planned five more centres in the city and is reported to have interviewed and shortlisted 150 people in Mumbai to be employed in them. These centres were planned to go operational in December this year. His employees had a cross-country profile, preferably girls, whose salaries with incentives crossed over Rs 70,000 per month. There was a hefty bonus attached on achievement of targets. The overall investigations are being handled by the Thane police with the Gujarat cops only playing a supplementing role.

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