Kochi: Over a week after a CPM area secretary was booked in connection with alleged abduction and assault of a businessman, the Kochi city police on Tuesday registered a case against Congress leader and Maradu municipal vice-chairman Antony Ashanparambil for a similar offence. Six others, including councillor Jinson Peter, too are facing charges of kidnapping and abduction of one P.A. Shukkoor, an INTUC leader from Nettoor.
The other accused were identified as Bharathan, Shiju, Ramshad, Salam alias Konj Salam and Abhi alias Auto Abhi. The Congress leaders allegedly engaged a quotation gang to threaten the victim and force him to back out from a land reclamation deal for which they too were contenders. “Both the leaders are absconding. Searches at their residence and office turned futile,” police said.
They also took into custody three local goons, identified as members of a criminal gang led by Bhai Nazir. The city task force later took over the investigation. Mr Shukkoor, who was into the business of supplying construction debris for land filling, had launched a poster campaign against Mr Ashanparambil in 2013 after he had lost a business contract following the latter’s intervention. In retaliation, Mr Shukkoor was kidnapped and taken to a house near Nettoor railway gate by Antony, Jinson and 14 others. He was allegedly stripped naked and beaten up before being threatened with sharp weapons.
The victim claims to have lodged a complaint with the local cops then but “the police took no action”. In the complaint he lodged with the Kochi range IG and deputy commissioner of police, Mr Shukkoor alleged he was again threatened by the same gang in September this year over another contract on reclamation of land. He claimed that he was threatened to withdraw from the contract in favour of Antony, who is also into the same business. CPM Kalamassery area secretary
V.A. Zakeer Hussain had gone into hiding in a case related to abduction and threatening of a city-based businessman.
Realty sector boom sees rise in goon mafia again
The goon mafia has reared its ugly head again in the commercial capital as reflected in recent cases but their focus is now on booming realty sector with small-time politicians often donning the role of “compromisers”. The city police task force, set up over a week ago to rein in them, has asked the revenue department to provide details of major land deals and land reclamation cases in the district in the last two years.
“We noticed goon mafias behind many recent economic offences. The accused are old goons who had assault and threatening charges against them years back. They were inactive for nearly four to five years. However, the economic boom saw them intervening in land deals and land fillings and often threatening parties to sell at lower prices or to purchase at exorbitant rates,” said deputy commissioner Arul R. B. Krishna.
“We’re working in coordination with the revenue department and have begun verifying details of major land transactions, land reclamation and stop memos issued during the period. In many cases, the mere presence of notorious goons is enough for real estate groups to seal deals. In return the gangsters will get a commission,” the officer said.
However, he said the trend was not alarming for ordinary people. “There is no major case of bodily harm registered in city limit stations after 2011. Also, we succeeded in ending the gang wars. Now their specific interest is in realty sector only, eyeing easy money,” he said. An unholy nexus between mafia and politicians too could be noticed in recent cases of Kalamassery businessman abduction and the Maradu landfilling case.
However, the cops termed as “accidental” the unearthing of back-to-back cases involving politicians and denied the trend of small-time politicians acting to settle disputed land deals. Meanwhile, the task force so far took 16 goons under preventive detention besides issuing summons to 25 others. They also identified about 80 persons having criminal antecedents. “We’ve prepared a list of notorious gangsters and the areas they are concentrated. The same is being constantly updated,” the DCP said.