The ongoing probe against a Kerala gang that blackmailed and forced models to become escorts, and targeted actress Shamna Kasim, has exposed further details. Yesterday, another person was arrested by the Kerala police, a hairstylist named Harris, who had ties with people in the Malayalam entertainment industry. And, Malayalam comedian and actor, Dharmajan Bolgatty, was called in by the police for questioning today.
How the hairstylist helped the gang
According to the police, Harris is a relative of Rafeeque, who was earlier arrested in the case. The culprits allegedly conned people by making use of Harris connections in the entertainment industry. Harris managed to get Shamna Kasim's phone number, and address, from a movie producer, according to the preliminary information gathered by the police. He then passed it on to one of the gang members.
Kasim, also known by the stage name Poorna, has acted in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu movies. As reported earlier, the gang first approached Kasim with a fake marriage proposal, then tried to blackmail her family in an attempt to extort money. It was the family’s police complaint that led to the gang being busted.
Reportedly, Kasim who was in Hyderabad for a shooting, reached Kochi this evening to record her statement with the Special Investigation Team (SIT) during a video conference.
Actor Dharmajan called for questioning
Reportedly, during interrogation, it was found that one of the culprits had actor Dharmajan’s phone number. The actor was called by the cops, for further questioning.
Dharmajan, who recorded his statement on Monday, admitted that the conmen had contacted him in their bid to secure Kasim’s phone number. In a video clip recorded outside the Kochi Police Commissioner's office, today, Dharmajan was seen telling reporters: “The police called me last night, because one of the accused got my number from film production controller Shaji Pattakara. A man named Ashgar Ali, who is a part of the gang is the person who had called me some time during the lockdown, when I was socially distancing at home with my family. They mentioned that they use celebrities’ help to smuggle gold, and asked me if I could share Shamna Kasim’s phone number with them. I dismissed it as a prank, and I didn’t give them any information, nor did I inform Kasim. They called me a couple of times, I informed the police.”
Actor Dharmajan is reportedly one of the three people summoned to the Commissioner's office on Monday. The police will question others in Malayalam movie industry, in connection with the case.
A woman was helping the gang
It was also revealed, during the probe, that a woman from Idukki had helped the gang lure young women, by promising them modelling assignments. The police have been on the lookout for her. Cops believe that the real extent of the crime, and the number of people involved in the racket, will be revealed once she is caught. It is also alleged the gang kept some of their victims in captivity at hotels in Vadakkencherry, and Walayar.
More complaints filed
As the probe intensified, five more people filed complaints against the gang, today. Kochi police commissioner, Vijay Sakhare said that more complaints have been raised against the accused. He had earlier said that some of the complainants had reported that they were sexually abused by a gang member.
Meanwhile, the key accused, Mohammad Shareif said that he is not involved in Kasim’s blackmailing case. According to local news website, mathrubhumi.com: “He also alleged that make-up artist Harris and Ashraf tried to swindle money out of Shamna Kasim, and that Rafeeq was responsible for locking up the models in the hotel room. As allegation of gold smuggling was raised against the accused, Kerala’s Customs officials have also started seeking information from the police force. At present, there are no evidences of gold smuggling. If evidences are collected, the Customs officials will interrogate the accused, it is hinted.”