Gurgaon: At least 150 people across Delhi-NCR are believed to have fallen prey to a gang that allegedly befriended them on an online dating app for gay, bisexual and transgenders and blackmailed them with intimate pictures over the past five months.
In most of the cases, people refrained from lodging complaints for fear of social stigma. Even if some mustered the confidence to approach police, they registered cases of snatching and similar offences, and not of blackmail.
Although same-sex relationships are not illegal in the country, there’s still much stigma attached to it.
Sources in the police force said most of those who were targeted by the gang were married and worked in senior positions in reputable organisations across Delhi-NCR, which made it all the more important for them to guard their image.
“Victims of such offences are more concerned about getting exposed than getting blackmailed,” said a senior officer of Gurgaon police, adding that the cops often faced hurdles in solving such cases as the complainant refused to share much information.
In June, Gurgaon police had received a complaint from a 25-year-old man who alleged that a group of youths had snatched his phone in a market and forced him to hand over cash and other valuables. Police scanned CCTV footage of the area, but could not find any evidence of snatching.
The cops tracked the vehicle whose number had been shared by the complainant, and after months of sustained investigation, arrested a man from Faridabad. During interrogation, he informed the cops that he had been blackmailing the complainant after luring him on a gay dating app.
“This left us shocked,” the officer said. He added that the complainant, too, had later narrated to the police his plight.
A few weeks later, four more members of the gang were picked up from Delhi and Gurgaon. “This particular gang was active for the past five months, during which, they targeted hundreds of people. More such gangs may be active in the region,” the officer said.
The five arrested members of the gang had different physical features, which, the police said, was to suit the preferences of those they would eventually target. “They are all from lower middle class families and did this for easy money,” the source said.
Sources said the gang members would befriend people on the dating app, and after sharing a few pictures, they would agree to meet at an isolated place. “The pictures and videos that we have are mostly recorded at an isolated place,” the officer said. The gang would extort small amounts — ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh, depending on the profile of the person.
“This gang could not be exposed for so long because they asked people to pay according to their capacity. The victims thought it better to pay and hush up the matter. Even if some lodged a complaint, it would be of snatching,” the officer said.
In February this year, five members of a similar gang were arrested for targeting senior employees of multinationals and homegrown companies in the city.