Kochi: Close on the heels of the bust of an international honey trap racket in Kochi, the police have come across another extortion gang which blackmailed a merchant in Perumbavoor into parting with Rs 45 lakh. The police arrested Seema from Chalakkudi and her partner Shahin from Edappalli on the complaint of the merchant. The duo might have squeezed out as much as Rs 1 crore, sources said.
The complainant landed in trouble after he made friends with Seema on Facebook, Perumbavur circle inspector P A Fazal told Onmanorama. The woman later blackmailed the merchant saying that she would make public screenshots of their online chats.
The police said that the cases form only the tip of the iceberg as most victims shy away from going public with a complaint. The victims go to the police only when the demands of their tormentors touch obscene figures. Even in the latest case, the merchant obliged initial demands of money from his seductress.
Seema, it turns out, had made a living out of luring in people online. The police have found that she operated many accounts on Facebook. She has at least one blackmail case pending against her. She is also accused of attacking persons belonging to the Scheduled Tribes and violating excise laws.
The woman who hails from Vettilappara had shifted base to Kochi to effectively carry out with her frauds, the police said.
Apart from her boyfriend Shahin aka Shanu, she is believed to have received help from a woman from Palakkad but the police have yet to confirm this. The police have got hold of the details of the chats between Seema and her victim as well as the bank transactions between them. A case was registered on the basis of evidence such as audio clips in which Seema was heard blackmailing the merchant.
Rackets which targets victims on social media are mushrooming around Kochi, the police said. They carefully choose their victims from financially well-off people.
Like Seema, Mary Varghese from Thoppumpadi chatted up a businessman from Qatar and lured him to a hotel room. She shot pictures of herself and the businessman in a compromising position using a hidden camera and later sent the photos to him. She was later arrested from Kannur. The police are checking if she was involved in similar cases in Kerala.
A lot of such cases have gone undetected thanks to the sensitivity of the incidents concerned. Social media users were exposed to a video that went viral recently, in which a woman was seen bashing up a man in an apartment. Both the characters were later identified as Malayalis. The audio suggested that the violence was prompted by some financial transactions. There was a third person in the room who shot the video.
Though the man was traced to Changanasseri, he said that he was not interested in lodging a complaint with the police or making it into a news item. Like him, most victims prefers to remain silent for fear of dishonour or family feuds.