Kolkata: Two men belonging to two reputed business families of Kolkata were arrested Wednesday for their alleged involvement in running a sleaze racket in the city, in which 182 women were trapped and filmed over the last six years.
Aditya Agarwal and Anish Loharuka, both in their early-20s, had reportedly started the sleaze business when they were minors, and along with an associate, repeatedly harassed, blackmailed and extorted the victims.
According to a senior Kolkata Police officer who is in charge of the investigation, Agarwal and Loharuka also created a pool among their friends to exchange the videos. Their associate, Kailash Yadav, cook of the Loharuka family, has also been arrested for blackmailing the women and aiding the duo in making the video clips.
The police have slapped at least 10 sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act on the accused, including charges of extortion, stalking, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation, along with cybercrime acts.
Agarwal and Loharuka have been remanded to police custody until 6 February. Their families, meanwhile, have hired around 22 lawyers to fight the case.
The Agarwal family owns a popular ethnic wear brand that operates nationally, while the Loharuka family runs a hotel chain in Kolkata.
It all began in college
According to police sources, Agarwal and Loharuka started filming intimate moments with their female friends in school and college when they were around 17 years of age, in 2013. However, the first complaint against them was received only in November 2019.
The sources said the police recovered at least 182 folders with hundreds of clips each, marked with the names, ages, addresses and other details of the victims.
“The folders almost looked like the ones companies keep for their employees, with almost all details, their background and performances. Each folder contains multiple video clips,” said a senior police official.
The modus operandi was also unique, sources said — Agarwal and Loharuka would first “trap” the victims in an “emotional” relationship, which would later turn “physically intimate” when they were filmed by a third person, which was the cook Yadav.
While some of the victims had given consent for the clips for ‘fun’, most were completely unaware that they were being filmed. The duo then used to exchange the videos in a common ‘live porn pool’ among friends.
The videos, police sources said, were later used to blackmail the victims for repeated “intimate moments” in hotel rooms, resorts and other rented premises in and outside the city.
Five victims filed complaints
In November 2019, a victim, who is now married, registered an FIR after she was blackmailed by an “unknown caller” with some of her clips. The caller demanded Rs 10 lakh and threatened that he would upload the videos online.
The victim refused to pay the amount and instead lodged an FIR. Since then, at least four more women came forward to complain against the duo — either voluntarily or after being contacted by the police.
Initially, the police was hitting only dead ends, as the first complainant could only provide numbers of the “unknown caller”. Tracking the number took the police to several stolen mobile phones in three other states — Uttarakhand, Bihar and Jharkhand. But none of the leads produced results, sources said.
After a long, tedious process, the police zeroed in on a number that led to Yadav, a resident of Deoghar in Bihar.
The first complainant stopped receiving extortion calls after lodging the FIR, but a few days later, they started again. This time, sources said, the police tracked the tower location of the number, which led them to Yadav. In the meantime, Loharuka, upon receiving news of the FIR, had allegedly taken out the laptop’s hard drive and left it with Yadav in his village.
During Yadav’s interrogation, he mentioned the hard drive and the police recovered it.
Following this, four teams of five officers each were formed to shadow Agarwal and Loharuka. Sources said that with approval of Kolkata Police Commissioner Anuj Sharma, the teams maintained a strict vigil on the duo, as they anticipated that the families would try to influence the probe. However, for three months, the families did not have any hint about the investigation.
Finally, Agarwal and Loharuka were arrested Wednesday and produced before a court immediately. Their family members were called only after they reached the court.