A Kerala gang that trapped many aspiring young models, and blackmailed them into becoming escorts and gold smugglers, went too far when they targeted popular Kerala actress Shamna Kasim. Twitter users from Kerala are sharing news reports of how, a special investigation team (SIT), has arrested the kingpin and members of his gang, who allegedly threatened Kasim, and tried to extort money from her family.
The gang leader Mohammad Sharief, was arrested from the Palakkad district, on Saturday.
Police launched the investigation based on a complaint from actress Shamna Kasim's family that the gang made attempts to extort money from them, after approaching them with a marriage proposal for her. Shamna Kasim, also known by the stage name Poorna, has acted in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu movies.
A fake suitor
Reportedly, a “suitor” called up Kasim on her cellphone, and claimed that he was an NRI businessman running a jewellery business. Subsequently, the suitor’s “relatives” visited her house, and became friendly with the family. They showed her the photograph of a TikTok model from Kasargod, as the “suitor”, according to news website mumbaimirror.com.
According to the report: “A few days later, the man called the actress, and demanded Rs100,000 (Dh4,856). He told her not to inform her mother, and asked her to hand over the cash to a person who will be visiting her. When the fraudsters felt that the actor was hesitant to part with the money, they started issuing threats, and said they would derail her career.”
Last week, Kasim's parents lodged a police complaint. Her father, in his complaint, said the blackmailers were threatening to release video clips of his daughter, if they were not given money.
On June 24, police arrested four people in relation to the case.
“Besides Sharief, the other key suspect in the case is Rafeeque. He was among the four persons arrested on Thursday,” police said.
Rafeeque, already married and father of two, reportedly played the role of the bridegroom in this plan. According to newindianexpress.com: “Rafeeq Mohammed, 30, Ramesh Krishnan, 35, Sarath Sivadasan, 25, and Asharaf Saidu Mohammed, 52, were arrested based on the complaint.”
More victims come forward
Following the arrest, three women, working as models, approached the police on Thursday, with a complaint that they were kept in the gang's captivity for a week, in Palakkad. One woman alleged molestation by one of the gang member while being held in captivity, according to various news reports.
Reportedly, one of the models also informed the police that at least eight women were kept in the location at Palakkad for eight days.
On Thursday, Kochi police commissioner, Vijay Sakhare told the media that a special investigation team (SIT) has been formed to nab three other members of the gang. A probe was launched into the ring's involvement in other cases.
According to Vijay Sakhare, the target of the gang appears to be film actors and models. Their modus operandi is to approach aspiring actors and models offering a role in movies. Then they would demand cash for business needs.
Victims blackmailed into becoming escorts
The SIT found that Sharief used to give the women advertisements for modelling, and then used to trap them. They were allegedly blackmailed into working as escorts, and gold carriers. Besides seeking to extort money from them, the gang also allegedly threatened the women, against informing their families or the police.
On Friday, two more men, Abdul Salam and Aboobacker, both natives of Vadanappally, were arrested by the police.
Sakhare said: “We tracked a gang of imposters led by Sharief. Only one girl had complained about sexual advances. We will charge them with human trafficking, insulting woman’s modesty, cheating, criminal conspiracy and other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). We are not ruling out their connection with the film world.”
Police have seized the car used by the accused to visit the actress residence. Sim cards, allegedly used by the gang for committing the crime, have also been seized.
A detailed interrogation of the accused is under way. “The police are probing their larger plan behind attempting to entice her with a marriage proposal,” said Sakhare.
Meanwhile, there are also reports that there is pressure on the victims to withdraw the complaints. “We will provide protection to the petitioners if required,” said District Commissioner of Police, P G Poonkuzhali.
“We will conduct a detailed interrogation of all the arrested together. Then, we will initiate further course of action. Five mobile phones have been seized from the accused and an inquiry will be conducted on the call records,” said an official with the investigation team.
The SIT confirmed that four FIRs have been filed, and investigation is on in two other complaints.