Nigerian, two aides held

Nigerian, two aides held

They allegedly had forced hundreds of businessmen, particularly jewellers, across the country to live in constant fear, even forcing a few to avoid coming to their shops. All through SMSes, asking them to reply in ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ whether they wanted to stay alive or not.

The two brothers — Vikas and Prakash — and Nigerian Idehen Solomon Osazee killed no one, carried out no threats and did not pursue their targets for long.

Having over 18,000 businessmen as targets, they found it easier to move on to the next target. Foreign websites offering free SMSs made their task easy, enabling them to send over 1,500 messages daily.

But now with the arrest of these three men, the targets can live in peace. Over 70 SIM cards, 14 mobile phones, voter ID cards, PAN cards and other equipment and documents — all procured on fake identities — have been recovered from them.

Police said the trio collected a huge database of businessmen operating in various parts of India, including Delhi, from different websites.

“They targeted jewellers, particularly because the cash flow in their shops is very high and security minimal. Also, they believed this community would prefer paying the ransom than getting into court cases,” said a senior police officer involved in the investigations.

The officer said they learnt that a few jewellers in Old Delhi even stopped visiting their shops for a brief while. The gang demanded “a reasonable amount” of Rs 11 lakh within 48 hours from the victims if they wanted to stay alive.

The content of the SMSes would generally be ‘Rs 5 lakh has been paid and a similar amount would be given to them after the target is eliminated’.

“If Rs 11 lakh was coughed up, the contract would be cancelled,” said Ravindra Yadav, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime).

They kept the amount comparatively low so that the jewellers would have lesser problems paying up and hence lower chances of a police complaint, Yadav said. As they had expected, very few across the country filed police cases. In Delhi too, only three jewellers approached police.

Since a maximum of 100 SMSs are allowed from a SIM card in a day, they chose a foreign website offering free messaging services to reach out to more targets. If the businessmen were willing to pay up, they would have to reply a ‘YES’. Thereafter, they would have to deposit the money in the account and send them scanned copies of the bank receipt.

They would also operate from crowded localities so that they could not be tracked down based on the devices they were using, said police.

Solomon, 30, was in fact found to be holding a fraud visa and passport. Vikas had come in his contact after spending eight months in jail earlier where he met Solomon’s accomplices.

Along with Prakash, they tried their hands in lottery scams, but took to this crime after it failed. The trio was arrested on Wednesday night.

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