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A 'police' cell extorts money for downloading

A gang that claims to be a police cell and raids offices looking for objectionable or illegal downloads, has become operational again

Keeping in mind the fact that it's probably impossible to find a computer in the city that does not have an illegally downloaded film, song, or software, this should come as a cautionary warning -- be careful, the Jaihind Copyright Protection & Piracy Cell (JCPPC) is on the loose, again.

After MiD DAY reported last year (Porn, Lies & Videotapes; June 11) of a group consisting of men in civilian clothes, along with one dressed as a policeman, calling themselves JCPPC and raiding offices of businessmen to check for illegally downloaded content and fining them in case any such content was found, this group seemed to have stopped its activities.

But now, new cases have resurfaced and they seem to have only gotten more ruthless. What's more, according to some victims, policemen could be involved with this group.

On Thursday evening, this group, five in civilian clothes and two in police uniforms, claiming to belong to the Vakola Police Station, 'raided' a travel agency in Santacruz. According to Ashit Mehta, the proprietor of JM Mehta & Co, the agency in question, the group checked all computers in the firm for illegally downloaded content and objectionable material. Upon finding songs that were downloaded from the web, the group reportedly threatened to confiscate all computers and arrest all staffers.

Two from the group identifying themselves as Kamruddin Sayyed and Abdul Deshmukh reportedly forced Mehta to cough up Rs 1 lakh as fine. Apparently no receipts for the fine were issued. "We were left with no choice. We could not afford to lose our computers and data," Mehta said. Also pointing to the possibility of a collusion with some policemen from Vakola Police Station, Mehta stated that one of the staff members was taken to the police station and an FIR was lodged against them.

Upon further investigation, Sunday MiD DAY learnt of another case this year involving the JCPPC, this one involving a computer repair store in Santacruz (W). This time, the group consisted of eight men, accompanied by a woman and a Police Sub Inspector.

Ashwin Sawant, name changed upon request, said, "About eight months back, this group barged into my shop and searched our computers. They found a three minute porn clip, that had, unknown to us, been downloaded by one of our former staffers." He reportedly paid Rs 50,000 as fine.

Sunday MiD DAY was able to trace the phone number of Sayyed, who identified himself as the head of the cell. The gang allegedly operates out of a transit camp in Dharavi. He, however, provided elusive answers, stating that the cell operated under police protection.

He disconnected the call saying, "Do you think we will conduct raids without permission?" Later he contacted this reporter, stating that an FIR had been registered against JM Mehta & Co, but disconnected the call again, upon realising that the conversation was being recorded.

According to DCP Nisar Tamboli, spokesperson of the Mumbai Police, no private agency has been hired to conduct searches of computers for pirated content. "If any money has been extorted, it is a serious crime," he said.  He added that they will start investigations against JCPPC.

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