BENGALURU: The chief executive officer of a Kannada news channel Laxmiprasad Vajapai, who was arrested on Friday for allegedly extorting money from a builder, was involved in similar cases earlier.
A case was registered against Vajapai and his associates in Commercial Street Police for extortion of `10 crore and jewellery worth `30 lakh from IMA Group. Another FIR is pending against him at Mahalaxmipuram police station and the accused employed similar modus operandi, police said.
“Vajapai used to initially air some negative content about businessmen and would contact them later to extort money. He would threaten them saying that he would destroy their business and reputation,” a police officer said.
“Two companies — IMA Group and Injaz Group — have jointly filed FIRs at both Commercial Street and Koramangala police stations against the CEO and eight staffers of the channel,” the officer added.
How Vajapai was trapped
Around 7 am on Friday, the news channel aired clips to threaten Suhail Sheriff, Managing Director of Injaz Builders and Developers Pvt Ltd. Sheriff’s partner Misbah Mukarram later contacted Vajapai over phone. Vajapai threatened them that he had some documents and the news will be explosive. He also demanded money to stop airing the report.
As Sheriff was in Mysuru, Vajapai was asked wait till 5 pm to discuss the issue. But another clipped was aired around 2 pm after which friends, relatives and customers started calling Shariff and demanding their investments back.
Soon after reaching the city Shariff approached the city police commissioner and then approached Koramangala police.
Sheriff, along with his brother and Misbah, went to the Janasri office with a briefcase containing `15 lakh. They had also filled it with some tissue and paper to make Vajapai believe there was `10 crore in it.
Sheriff was then locked up in Vajapai’s chamber with four gunmen standing guard. Vajapai’s associate Mithun collected the briefcase from Sheriff’s brother even as he stayed in contact with Sheriff over walkie-talkie.
Vajapai threatened Sheriff that he has links with the Mumbai underworld and also some ministers. He claimed that he would take `2 lakh from the `10 crore and would donate the rest to physically challenged people as charity.
Around 6.30 pm, policemen in plainclothes swooped down on them and caught Vajapai red-handed. The arrested were later produced before a magistrate who handed over Vajapai to police custody till April 19. Mithun and the four gunmen were handed over to judicial custody. “They have also been booked under the Arms Act,” police said.