At least 50 Indian business executives based in New Delhi were tricked into an elaborate extortion set-up, ‘honey trapped’ on LGBT dating app Grindr and then blackmailed with their own intimate, and often embarrassing, photos.
Targeting wealthy individuals in Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, and Ghaziabad, a gang of extortionists sought to bilk everything from cash, laptops, and watches from the corporate bigwigs, among them CEOs. Some 150 people fell victim to the enterprise, not all of them businessmen.
“Around 50 executives of top multinational companies in Delhi-NCR have been duped and robbed,” said Gurugram police commissioner Muhammad Akil, noting that the victims, “fearing social stigma,” were not prepared to take legal action against the culprits, even refusing to make statements to police.
In most cases, after meeting with their hoax ‘dates’ in remote locales under the guise of a romantic rendezvous, the victims were then ambushed, beaten, robbed, and photographed in the nude, with the perpetrators keeping the photos in hopes of extorting additional valuables.
“It took them almost a month to get friendly with the victims and once they gained [the victims’] confidence and assured them that their identities were safe, they set up meetings,” Akil went on.
The commissioner said that law enforcement had been in touch with Grindr in hopes of learning more about the blackmail gang. While the group was caught in the act last November after an officer posed as a hapless victim, resulting in the arrest of four men, two other suspects remain at large.
One victim, a 38-year-old business executive based in Gurugram, just outside Delhi, described his ordeal to the Hindustan Times, though requested not to be named.
“I downloaded the application just weeks before the incident in October. I met this person online and talked to him for 11 days; he said he wanted to meet me. I agreed,” the executive said. “I insisted that we should have drinks and food in a restaurant but he suggested that we go for a long drive.”
After driving for around 45 minutes, the perpetrator “initiated intimacy,” the victim said, “but within minutes another car intercepted my car and they forced open the car door and assaulted and robbed me. The man posing as my friend joined them and fled the spot.”
Soon after the encounter, the victim said he began getting calls demanding a payment of 200,000 rupees ($2,800), at which point he changed his phone number, later bringing the situation to the police on the advice of a friend.
Upon questioning by law enforcement, the four members arrested in November admitted to pulling the same set-up on around 150 people in the space of three months, 80 of which have been tracked down so far by police, who are still investigating the series of crimes.