Thapar-Avantha Group Director on three-nation tour with the PM receives extortion threats, two arrested
New Delhi:The Delhi Police swung into action and arrested today the head of Corporate Affairs of a Thapar Group company and his associate for making extortion calls to a director of Thapar – Avantha group demanding Rs 25 crore for selling out a power plant to Adani Group for Rs 4000 crores. The top corporate executive who received the extortion calls was a member of the corporate representatives’ delegation on a three-nation tour with Prime Minister Narenda Modi.
A team of Special Cell of Delhi Police led by Inspectors Sanjay Dutt, Dharmender Kumar and Rahul Kumar Singh cracked the sensational case of extortion threats being made to the director of a Thapar Group enterprise with the arrest of Jaspal Singh (47) of Chandigarh and his associate Deepak Kishore (43), a Delhi resident. Jaspal Singh is the Head, Corporate Affairs of Ballarpur Industries Limited, also a Thapar Group enterprise. Being a very senior executive, he was well versed with the happenings within the conglomerate. He hired Deepak Kishore and made a plan to execute the extortion threats using his intimate knowledge of the affairs of his Corporate group.
On April 14, a complaint was received by the Special Cell of Delhi Police on behalf of Anil Bhargava, Director of Avantha Group, which includes Crompton Greaves Limited (power transmission and distribution equipment and services), BILT (paper and pulp), The Global Green Company Limited (food processing), Biltech Building Elements Limited (infrastructure), Avantha Power & Infrastructure Limited (energy), Avantha Business Solutions Limited (IT and ITES), JG Containers (glass containers) and Avantha ERGO Life Insurance Company Limited (Life Insurance). It was pointed out in the complaint that threatening calls were being made to Anil Bhargava and SMS messages, containing details of his family members, were also being received on the cell phone number of Gautam Thapar’s personal secretary, demanding an amount of Rs. 25 Crores as ‘protection money’ for the recently concluded sale of a power project of Avantha Group to the Adani Group in Chattisgarh. The caller had issued the treat that if his demands were not met, he would eliminate his target and would also cause harm to his children studying abroad. Upon receiving the complaint, an FIR was registered.
During the course of investigation, massive efforts were launched to trace and apprehend the accused persons who had executed the crime. The victim was travelling along with the Prime Minister of India on his just concluded three-nation tour as a member of the corporate delegation. A Police team was rushed to Thoubal in Manipur as the incriminating SIM card which was used to make the threat calls and send SMS messages was from the North East telecom circle. Several other teams were deployed at various places within Delhi and a team was also rushed to Mumbai as the threat calls were made when the user was physically present in Mumbai. Police efforts, coupled with deft technological penetration delivered results when it was revealed that the person after making the threatening calls from Mumbai, landed in Delhi. On the basis of location and movement analysis and minute ground-level verifications, a suspect was located in the Lal Kuan area of Badarpur here. He was identified as Deepak Kishore. During interrogation, he confessed making the threat calls and also disclosed the role of Jaspal Singh, the mastermind behind the conspiracy. Jaspal Singh was also examined and confronted with the revelations made by Deepak and soon, the entire contours of the sinister conspiracy started unraveling. Both the accused were subsequently arrested.
Accused Jaspal Singh, born in 1969 in Mohali, Punjab, had joined Ballarpur Industries Limited, a Thapar Group enterprise, as a manager in 2005. He has been a regular Thapar employee for the last 10 years. Gradually, Jaspal gained the trust and confidence of his bosses and became their valued liaison man for all corporate affairs and was made the Head of Corporate Affairs of Ballarpur Industries Limited. In this capacity, he became close to the families of his corporate bosses and developed a wide ranging network of contacts including top politicians, bureaucrats and industry people and was the ‘trusted man” of his corporate directors for all kinds of jobs. He had minute details of the corporate dealings of Avantha Group and knew that the recently concluded sale of a power plant of Avantha Group to the Adani Group in Chhattisgarh had brought in over Rs. 4,200 crores. He decided to utilize his knowledge of the family and personal affairs of his corporate bosses to hatch a conspiracy so that they could be threatened into submission and forced pay him extortion money to the tune of Rs. 25 Crores. Jaspal then roped in co-accused Deepak Kishore, who was very close to him since his early professional years when both of them were working in a different private company in New Delhi. Jaspal was the PRO in that firm while Deepak was a peon. But they developed a bond which transcended their vastly different positions in life. While Jaspal went on to become the Head of Corporate Affairs in India’s largest paper manufacturing company, Deepak could not go beyond becoming a driver in a DTC bus on a contract basis. Jaspal allured Deepak into his plan by promising him a good job and a handsome amount of money. Deepak agreed to the plan as he knew that Jaspal was a shrewd and cunning operative and also believed that with his contacts, he would be able to pull off this heist.
Deepak was looking for a quick buck to live a life of luxury as he had seen during his stint as a driver working in Canada from 2005 to 2009. Once they became partners to the crime, Jaspal gave money to Deepak to arrange a SIM card and buy a new cellphone. He was then called to Chandigarh where Jaspal was currently posted. Deepak was also provided accommodation and air tickets to Mumbai from where he was supposed to make the threat call. Deepak went to Mumbai with the North East telecom circle SIM card and made the threatening call to the victim. After this, Deepak took a return flight to Delhi. To follow up on the threat, Jaspal had drafted a text message containing family details of Anil Bhargava and had sent it to Deepak’s mobile phone with the instruction that after reaching Delhi, he should travel to a place far from his residence and forward the message from his inbox to the Personal Secretary of Gautam Thapar. Deepak landed in Delhi on the night of April 13 and the next day, forwarded the threatening SMS to the Personal Secretary of Gautam Thapar. Since then, both the accused were waiting for a response from the victim and were planning the strategy to be adopted for receiving the extortion money through hawala channels. Accused Jaspal had also decided that in case their target tried to ignore the threat calls, he would use his intimate family details and the corporate affairs of the Thapar Group to blackmail him into submission whilst simultaneously hiring some criminal elements for making aggressive moves to convey the sincerity of his intent. Before this sinister plan could be executed, both the accused were arrested by the Special Cell.
The incriminating cell phone and the SIM card used to make the threat calls and sending of threatening messages have been recovered. Further investigation is in progress.