LUCKNOW: A senior journalist Vinod Verma has been arrested by the Chhattisgarh police on the basis of a complaint that he was trying to blackmail a senior minister of the state with a purported sex tape.
In a 3.30 am swoop on Vinod Verma’s residence in Ghaziabad, the Chhattisgarh police claimed to have found over 500 CDs, some cash, a laptop and a pen drive.
Verma is a senior freelance journalist who was earlier associated with organisations like Amar Ujala and BBC Hindi Service. As a member of the Editors Guild of India, Verma was part of a fact-finding team that investigated intimidation of journalists in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh last year.
At present he was said to be working on an investigative story on a senior minister in the Chhattisgarh government.
Police sources said the arrest followed receipt of a written complaint by one Prakash Bajaj, filed at the Pandri police station in Raipur, stating that he received a phone call from an unknown number claiming that the caller was in possession of some sex tapes involving the minister. The caller allegedly said he would release the CDs to malign the minister’s image if he failed to shell out money.
A case was lodged at the Pandri police station against the unidentified caller under Sections 340/17, 384 and 507 of the Indian Penal Code. The probe was handed over to the Crime Branch of the Chhattisgarh police.
During the investigation, detectives contacted the owner of a New Delhi-based video shop who informed them that he was contracted to make 1000 CDs of the sex tape by Vinod Verma.
That tip-off led to the post-midnight swoop on Verma’s residence in Mahagun Mansion Apartments in Indirapuram locality of Ghaziabad.
Sources said the Chhattisgarh police would produce Verma in the court of the Ghaziabad chief judicial magistrate later Friday to a transit remand to Chhattisgarh.
According to sources, Verma is believed to have been associated with Chhattisgarh Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel, who too is said to have a copy of the controversial CD.
Baghel questioned the arrest of Vinond Verma as the CD had not been brought into the public domain. He believed that the CD should have been sent for a forensic test to establish its authenticity.
The UP police said they had no role in the pre-dawn operation carried out by the Chhattisgarh police.
As news of the arrest of the former BBC and Amar Ujala journalist spread, many senior journalists from the electronic and print media gathered outside the Ghaziabad police station.
In a tweet, Aam Aadmi Party leader and former journalist Ashutosh said the Verma was arrested in a “mysterious” way and that the move amounted to attack on press freedom.