A couple of months since the incident happened, the police claim to have nabbed five out of the six accused in kidnapping of foreigners for ransom
Early this year, an incident of kidnapping of two foreigners for ransom, which involved cryptocurrency worth Rs 14.7 million, grabbed media headlines. A couple of months later, the Lahore police have finally succeeded in busting a six-member gang of criminals that carried out the kidnapping.
The incident in which a German and a Swiss national were robbed of bitcoins was an embarrassment for the country abroad, showing that organised criminal gangs were operating in the provincial capital.
The two foreigners were so traumatised that they chose to leave Pakistan as soon as they were released by the kidnappers. They never contacted the authorities for the recovery of their money. The Lahore police are hoping now for them to return and pursue the case in a court of law.
Talking to TNS, Shariq Jamal Khan the Lahore Investigations DIG, said it was “an important case for the department. We left no stone unturned to solve the mystery. It was thanks to the tireless efforts of the police that we were able to get hold of the criminals.”
Khan adds, “Five of the suspects have been apprehended. Only one, named Rana Irfan Mehmood, who is the ring leader, remains at large. According to our knowledge, he fled to Germany. We’ve contacted the INTERPOL to facilitate his arrest. The necessary process regarding issuance of the Red Warrant is complete, and we are hopeful that we shall be able to arrest him soon.”
He says that three of the arrested gang members — namely Abid Toor, Mian Ejaz and Umar Farooq — were Jail Department staff. “They have been suspended from service and shall soon be dismissed.”
The police have also recovered Rs 1.1 million from the kidnappers.
Khan says that the police “sprang into action the minute we got a tip-off in the form of CCTV camera footage. Consequently, the police were able to trace the number of vehicles used in the heist and establish the identity of the suspects.”
“Rana Irfan Mehmood, the ring leader, remains at large. According to our knowledge, he fled to Germany. We’ve contacted the INTERPOL to facilitate his arrest.” — DIG Investigations, Lahore, Shariq Jamal Khan.
The DIG isn’t loath to giving credit to the Safe City Project which he says “played an effective role in helping us get to the bottom of the case.”
He says the presence of the victims is necessary to bring the case against the accused to its logical conclusion. “If they don’t get in touch with us, we shall seek help from their embassies in Pakistan.”
According to the FIR lodged with the Racecourse Police, on February 2 under Section 395 and 365 of the CrPC, Islamabad-based Atta Un Noor Saqib, who works as a translator in a local company, was visiting Lahore along with Stephan Ehrhardt of Switzerland and Magerwin Maria Spari of Germany, when they were kidnapped and robbed of bitcoin and other cash worth millions of rupees.
The complainant, on behalf of the two foreign nationals, informed the police that the prime suspect, identified as Rana Irfan Mehmood, had met Ehrhardt and Spari in Germany and invited them to Lahore for an investment deal.
He said Mehmood had planned a grand heist. His accomplices picked up the foreigners who were staying at a local five-star hotel, on the pretext of showing them around. They were instead taken to an unfamiliar location where some unidentified people joined them. Later, in the presence of a bunch of armed men in police uniforms they were tricked into believing that they had been arrested on drug smuggling charges. Mehmood told them to transfer € 6,300 (Rs 1.2 million) and 1.86 bitcoins (Rs 15 million) in his account.
When contacted, the complainant (Atta Un Noor) told TNS that the prime suspect “hasn’t been arrested yet.” He said that Mehmood was still at large and might have escaped abroad.
“The police are still working on the case. It would be counterproductive to divulge more details in this regard at this point,” he said.
Earlier, Gujranwala police claimed to have arrested two of Mehmood’s accomplices and handed them over to Lahore police for interrogation.
The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at [email protected]