3 Gujarat cops accused of alleged money extortion from Kerala resident; all three suspended

The three police officers were accused of attempting to extort Rs 25 lakh from a Kerala resident in exchange for unfreezing his bank account.
Representative Image.
Representative Image.(Express illustration)

AHMEDABAD: Two police inspectors and an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) were suspended on Saturday, a day after an extortion case was filed against them in Gujarat's Junagadh district.

The three police officers were accused of attempting to extort Rs 25 lakh from a Kerala resident in exchange for unfreezing his bank account.

Nilesh Jajadia, Inspector General (IG) of Junagadh Range, told the media, "The First Information Report (FIR) was registered after an internal probe revealed that the trio had frozen some 335 bank accounts on the pretext of investigation and attempted to extort money from one of the account holders when he approached them."

Junagadh 'B' Division police filed an FIR against town police inspector Taral Bhatt, Inspector from the cybercrime cell of Junagadh Special Operations Group (SOG) A M Gohil, and ASI Dipak Jani in response to a complaint made by inspector Shakti Sinh Gohil from the Junagadh Range IG office.

All three police officers namely, A M Gohil, ASI Dipak Jani, and Taral Bhatt have been suspended from service.

“Following an investigation based on the petitioner's statement, his account was frozen along with 335 other accounts in a single order, indicating that it was a criminal act. Police officer A M Gohil and ASI Dipak Jani have been promptly suspended,” said IG Jajadia.

An investigation found that inspector Taral Bhatt had compiled a list of various bank accounts and allegedly ordered A M Gohil to freeze them under the guise of suspicious activity.

According to the FIR, between August and November last year, A M Gohil and Jani reportedly wrote letters to several banks requesting that 335 bank accounts be frozen as ordered by Bhatt.

“A police inquiry determined that the information on the 335 frozen accounts was provided by police inspector Taral Bhatt, who has also been suspended.” Said IG Nilesh Jajadia.

As per the FIR, Kartik Bhandari, a resident of Kerala, had learned that his bank account had been frozen in December 2023. Bank officials told him that it was done on the orders of the Cyber Crime Cell of Junagadh Police.

When Bhandari contacted the police officials in Junagadh, they sought some documents and bank statements. When the issue was still not resolved, he traveled to Junagadh on January 16 and contacted Jani and A M Gohil at the SOG office.

Jani allegedly told Bhandari that the account was frozen as there were "secret inputs received from the Enforcement Directorate (ED)" about suspicious transactions worth crores of rupees, and demanded a bribe of Rs 25 lakh.

When Bhandari said he could arrange only Rs 3 to 4 lakh, Jani allegedly said other account holders had paid Rs 20 lakh each to unfreeze their accounts, and his senior officers would not settle for Rs 3-4 lakh.

Inspector A M Gohil then allegedly threatened to forward the case to the ED, the FIR said.

As advised by his lawyer, Bhandari contacted the Range IG and applied to unfreeze his account. IG Jajadia asked inspector S N Gohil to conduct an inquiry.

“Personal account details are not published on the public platform. As a result, whoever provided the accused with the details of this account may have committed a major crime to obtain these details. There's also the danger of hacking. Given the gravity of the crime, the DGP has delegated responsibility for the investigation to the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS),” said IG Nilesh Jajadia.

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