Extortion bid at Malad: 5 booked for attempt to extort from pharmacist

Mumbai: Malad Police arrested two persons, including a journalist for extortion on Thursday, who were allegedly blackmailing a pharmacist on the pretext of accusing him of selling substandard and fake sanitisers, at a time when the COVID-19 outbreak has reached its second phase in Maharashtra. When the complainant, the owner of the pharmacy smelt a rat in their conversation and actions, he immediately alerted the police control room and reported the matter. Police are on the lookout for three more accomplices, who posed as civic officials and were conducting a fake raid at the shop.

Police said, on Thursday, five men forcibly entered a pharmacy store— Chemist Hub, opposite Inorbit Mall at Malad. These men introduced themselves as officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and said that they have come here to conduct a check on the products sold in the store. Following this, the men confiscated our mobile phones and put in a safe locker, asking the owner, Janak Dudhaar, 60, to disable the CCTV cameras. When Dudhaar and his associates refused to comply, one of the accused removed the digital video recorder cassette from the system, subsequently cutting off the camera footage.

Dudhaar said in the complaint, one of the accused men brought 8-10 bottles of hand sanitisers from the shelf as samples and accused it of being a substandard product. The imposters escorted the store manager out of the shop and asked the watchman to close the shutters. “Behind the close shutters, one of the men told me that they were building a case of selling fake sanitisers against me and if I want to evade a police case and arrest, I should cough up Rs 2 lakh to hush the matter down,” Dudhaar said in the complaint.

When the complaint saw something amiss, he immediately alerted police. While police were arriving, three accused escaped from the shop and only two were arrested.

During questioning it was revealed that one of the accused was a local journalist— Mohammad Firoz Ansari, 37 and Peter Shetty, 38.

Probe revealed that the gang had planned to mint money amid the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and conduct fake raids, posing as BMC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The plan of the accused, however, went unsuccessful and they were booked and arrested under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code for extortion (section 384), trespassing and common intention. Meanwhile, police are on the lookout for three others.

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