LAHORE: Police claim to have unearthed a racket in which the suspects demanded ransom money in bitcoin for the release of a kidnapped person. Bitcoin is a crypto-currency, a form of electronic ‘cash’.
Surprisingly, the plot was hatched in the office of Lahore’s deputy commissioner (DC).
A police report revealed that DC’s phone operator Mazhar Abbas was part of the seven-member gang. Police arrested him on March 23 at an official ceremony when he was with the DC.
According to the report, police Constables Mohsin Abbas and Mohammad Arif, who were also involved in the crime, were the official guards of a high court judge. Mohammad Tahir of Lahore and Sheikh Abdul Rauf of Faisalabad were money exchange / bitcoin dealers.
Another suspect is Faisal Yousuf, the student of information technology teacher Prof Shahid Naseer whom the gang kidnapped for Rs20 million ransom on March 19.
The report containing recommendations for the police high-ups said that since it was the first case of its kind in the country, it could boost the trend of use of digital currency for ransom and other terror financing issues.
Speaking to Dawn, Saddar Division SP (Investigation) Rashid Hidayat said six suspects, including the prime suspect, had been arrested and the kidnapped teacher had been recovered.
He said Yousuf had planned to kidnap his teacher and engaged other suspects for the purpose. They rented a car from Sheikhupura, brought it to the DC’s office where Abbas removed its registration number plate and replaced it with a green one.
The suspects took Prof Naseer to Sheikhupura where they kept him to execute their plan of obtaining ransom. The SP said next day the complainant of the case, Asmar Sheikh, received a call from the kidnapped person and the gang demanded Rs20m ransom.
He said the kidnappers got first instalment of Rs2.5m and were in contact with the family for the rest of the payment.
Meanwhile, the SP said, the three teams of expert police officials managed to trace the culprits using digital technology and arrested them.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2019