The extortion racket was allegedly being run from inside the Sabarmati jail as the undertrial prisoners were found to possess mobile phones. (Representational Image)
In a first case registered under the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Act 2019, the Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) booked six persons, three of them already lodged in Sabarmati Central Jail here, for extortion based on operating a network of organised crime syndicate. Another, a seventh accused, who was not named in the FIR was also arrested on Tuesday.
The FIR, registered by inspector KG Chaudhary of the Department of Crime Branch (DCB) police station in Ahmedabad city at 12.35 am, Wednesday, named six persons, including gangster Vishal Rameshwarpuri Goswami, his brother Ajay alias Ashutosh alias Abhay Rameshwarpuri Goswami, Rinku alias Raj alias Rajvir Bhagwangiri Goswami, Jaipuri alias Jayprakash alias Jay Ravindrapuri Goswami, Bijendra alias Lala alias Dhiraj Rameshwarpuri Goswami and Suraj Pritampuri Goswami.
Apart from section 3 of the GCTOC Act, the accused were also charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including pertaining to being a party to criminal conspiracy (120B), disobeying orders promulgated by a public servant (188), putting person in fear of death or grievous hurt in order to carry extortion (387) and anonymous criminal intimidation (507), along with provisions under the Prisons Act pertaining to possession of prohibited articles.
Of the six, Vishal, Ajay and Rinku are undertrial prisoners in the Sabarmati Central Jail, while the remaining three are residing in different districts of Madhya Pradesh, according to the FIR. On Tuesday, around 8 pm, Jaipuri, Bijendra, Suraj and a fourth person not named in the FIR, Anurag alias Tiger Surendrapuri Goswami, were arrested from the Meghaninagar area of the city. While the crime branch sought 25 days of remand in police custody, the principal judge of city civil and sessions remanded the four to 10 days in police custody on Wednesday.
The extortion racket was allegedly being run from inside the Sabarmati jail as the undertrial prisoners were found to possess mobile phones. The four who were arrested were found to be in possession of 20 mobile phones, Rs 50,000 in cash, an illegal pistol and 40 cartridges.
According to the FIR, a “secret information” was received by the office of the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) of crime on November 6, 2019, saying “Vishal Rameshwarpuri Goswami... is actively involved in running an extortion racket targeting businessmen from the state”. The FIR further stated that as per the information received by police, the accused Vishal along with the other co-accused, Jaipuri and Bijendra, were using WhatsApp and other voice over internet protocol applications to make calls and send messages for extortion. The accused gang members were also tracking the witnesses who were due to depose in the ongoing trial of cases against them at various courts and threatening them.
Once the mobile numbers used by Vishal from Sabarmati Central Jail for communicating with persons outside prison were identified, necessary permits were sought from the state home department for their surveillance. According to the crime branch, the surveillance proved that the mobile numbers were being used by Vishal, his brothers Ajay and Bijendra, brother-in-law Rinku and nephews Suraj, who was recorded as minor until 2016 and is now 22, and Jaypuri.
“It was ascertained that Vishal and his accomplices were involved in collecting substantial sums of money from various people and prima facie seem(s) to be involved in routing this money to his various conduits,” states the FIR. The FIR also lists out excerpts of telephonic conversations, which were intercepted. Vishal and his gang, have been targeting jewellers in Gujarat since 2011 with Vishal and were also facing charges of murder.
While the crime branch was already building a case against the alleged gang members, a complaint was received from a city resident who was allegedly threatened with a firearm on December 3, 2019 by a couple of persons on a motorbike. The next day, the complainant received messages of intimidation from an unknown number which was later found to be used by Vishal and his accomplices.
Mobile phones, SIM cards, charger and a notebook containing phone numbers were seized from the prison, crime branch officials said. The FIR also listed 51 other FIRs registered against the accused and his alleged gang across several states, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh Karnataka and Rajasthan, since 2002.
The Ahmedabad Crime Branch officials, in a joint operation with Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force, apprehended Vishal and Ajay from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh in March 2015. Rinku was held from Rudrapur in Uttarakhand around the same time. GCTOC Act came into effect in the state on December 1, 2019.