Social activist arrested in Mahesh Sharma ‘blackmail’ case, he says police prerogative

Amil Bhatnagar
Mahesh Sharma alleged Rs 2 crore was demanded from him (PTI Photo/File)

Social activist Usha Thakur has been arrested by Noida Police for her alleged involvement in a blackmail case involving Union Minister Mahesh Sharma, who has alleged that Rs 2 crore was demanded from him. Three journalists have so far been arrested for allegedly attempting to extort money from Sharma.

Rajveer Singh Chauhan, SHO Sector 20, said: During investigation, evidence came up which highlighted Usha Thakur s involvement. A lot of information has also been shared by Alok, owner of a now-defunct TV channel and a Delhi-based journalist, who was arrested earlier. Usha has been sent to judicial custody and further investigation is pending.

According to police, on April 23, a journalist, Nishu, was arrested by the Noida Police from Sharma s Kailash Hospital. An extortion letter was recovered from her, which allegedly asked Sharma to provide Rs 45 lakh by the same evening and the rest later. It claimed a sting video would be released if he didn t comply. Noida Police claimed they had not found anything objectionable in the video.

Alok, the alleged kingpin of the extortion circle, used to run a Noida-based TV news channel called Pratinidhi, which was shut due to financial crunch post demonetisation.

According to police, he allegedly began planning sting operations to extract money from high-profile people. The journalist arrested on April 23 said during questioning that they had conducted similar sting operations on four politicians, police claimed. The videos were made at Alok s behest, Nishu told police.

Alok was arrested from Kolkata along with another former Pratinidhi journalist, Nisha. Thakur s alleged role came to light when she was questioned on the day of Nishu s arrest as she facilitated the meeting between the minister and the accused scribe. I have no idea what these journalists were up to. I am close to Dr Sharma and I was helping him out in the campaign. I am being dragged into this, Thakur had said.

According to police, the tablet on which the alleged video was made was collected from Thakur s house, hours before the meeting took place.

I have no complaint against Usha Thakur. This is the prerogative of the police. She is like my elder sister. I don t even know what Alok has said during questioning. I am busy with the election campaign, said Sharma after Usha s arrest. Police said they are looking for another former Pratinidhi employee, who has also been named in the FIR.