BENGALURU: An actor starring as the hero in a movie he was producing planned an abduction for ransom, simply because he needed money to complete the production. The victim chosen was the 19-year-old son of Vinayak Bapat, MD of Kirloskar Electrical Company. But the abduction didn’t go as planned and the “hero-turned-villain” is now cooling his heels in jail with four of his associates.
Bengaluru North east police, who arrested the five men, said the actor Muniyappa (28), a resident of Singapura Layout in MS Palya, and his friends had also indulged in chain-snatching to finance the movie.
Apart from Muniyappa, Hasan Dongri (26) from Kodigehalli, Jagadeesh (32) from Yelahanka, Jagannatha (28) and Manoj (19), both residents of Yelahanka New Town, are also in police custody.
Muniyappa had assumed the screen name Eshwar for the lead role in the Kannada movie ‘Challenger’. He and his friend Hasan had also invested money in it but more funds were required. That’s when the gang hatched a kidnap plot. and on August 24, kidnapped Bapat’s son Ishan, an engineering student at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology, Yelahanka. But they chickened out when they learnt police were on the lookout for Ishan and freed him.
According to police, Muniyappa was married to a former MLA’s daughter. Here too, he was slapped with abduction case but later it ended in compromise. But the marriage ended in divorce after he began to get involved in criminal activities. Muniyappa joined a chain-snatchers gang and many cases were registered against him in Gangammanagudi, Jalahalli, Soladevanahalli, Yeshwanthpur, Gandasi, Arasikere and Banawara police limits. He was also involved in a robbery that took place in Hassan.
After his first marriage ended in divorce, Muniyappa married another woman and started a job consultancy called Our Education in Mathikere. He duped several job aspirants and a case had been registered. He also posed as a journalist and worked for TV channel for a programme which revolved around domestic crimes and violence.
As his Challenger movie tag line says “Struggling for success”, Muniyappa wanted to be a movie hero. With the little money he had, he started the project ‘Challenger’, directed by Sanjay Shah. He changed his screen name to Eshwar. He also befriended Hasan Dongri, a small-time actor and driver of actress Shubha Poonja. Hasan too invested money and had a role in Challenger. In the later stage of production, when the team faced financial crisis, the duo snatched a chain from a woman near Solur. The money obtained by selling the chain wasn’t enough. So they decided to go for the big strike.
Initially, the duo decided to kidnap a shop owner who stayed close to the job consultancy firm. They bought a Matiz car online and roped in Jagadeesh and Mano, promising them `2 lakh each. The gang kept an eye on the movements of the shop owner. But the gang decided to drop the plan as the shop keeper was physically well built. When the team became desperate to make quick money, Jagadeesh proposed abducting children of rich parents. After some ground work, the team zeroed in on Ishan. On August 23, two members of the gang followed Ishan and kidnapped him from Malleswaram. The kidnappers called Vinayak using Ishan’s phone and demanded money. They also asked for the ransom amount to be paid on August 24 at 12 noon. Vinayak informed city police commissioner N S Megharikh.
Soon, 10 police teams were formed and they were spread across the city. While traveling in their car, the kidnappers found police conducting searches in isolated places. The gang stayed on the outskirts of the city on Kunigal road. In the wee hours of August 24, while returning to Bengaluru, Hasan identified a police official in mufti heading towards them. They panicked and dropped Ishan near Jalahalli and fled from the spot.
Police then intensified the operation to nab the accused. They tracked phones that were active in the area when Ishan’s phone was active. Police tracked Jagadeesh’s phone. Police found out that he was staying in his residence after the kidnap incident. Keeping an eye on his movements, police nabbed the others.