Thugs used online dating app 'Grindr' to rob CEOs of Delhi-NCR

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 13, 2020, 04.52 PM(IST)

Representative image. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Most victims were reportedly ambushed in their cars by the gang members, beaten up, photographed in the nude and robbed of their belongings.

Around 50 senior executives of Delhi NCR-based companies fell victim to a racket that spanned three months and tangled 150 people in its web. 

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The cornerstone to this fraudulent scheme was a social networking app called Grindr, which is designed to accommodate gay, bisexual and transgender people who were reportedly blackmailed with intimate pictures.

Targets of the racket were allegedly contacted through the app and dates were arranged after befriending them on isolated stretches of the Western Peripheral Expressway and Southern Peripheral Road in Gurugram.

Most victims were reportedly ambushed in their cars by the gang members, beaten up, photographed in the nude and robbed of their belongings.

The operation involving six men was busted in November after a decoy was sent to meet one of the members on Southern Peripheral Road following a complaint by a victim. Four of the culprits were arrested post-haste while two are still at large.

80 of the 150 victims have been tracked down by local law enforcement in the last three months, though the investigation is far from over. No response has been available from the US-based company Grindr on its horrifying misuse on Indians from the LGBTQ community.

The modus operandi for this crew involved striking friendship on the app and calling the victims to Sector 29 where one of the two members of the gang would meet the victim, chosen on account of their looks.

Most victims failed to realise that the person was different from the picture in the app or probably didn’t mind the difference. The stigma attached to same-sex relationships runs deep within India, even though such bonds are not illegal. Many of the senior executives who fell victims to this were married and had children, and could therefore not come out yet.

Victims would then be coerced to take a drive along the Southern Peripheral Road and Western Peripheral Expressway where police presence is low and the streets are improperly lit. Following them were the gang, who would ambush the two once they started performing a sexual act.

Gang members surrounded the parked cars and threatened the couple with a pistol, following which they clicked pictures and forced them to hand over their belongings. Victims threatened by the idea of their nude photos and videos being posted on several websites would hand over cash, laptops, watches and even transferred money into different accounts.

Most victims returned home and spent restless nights allegedly being blackmailed by the gang to transfer more money into specific accounts. Many could not disclose their predicament to their families or friends, for few would have understood.

Most victims the police reached out to were hesitant to discuss the matter and feared to take any legal action. Local law enforcement collected details and contact numbers of more victims after they had sufficient evidence of the gang's activities.

One officer set up a meeting in Sector 29 from where the suspect took him to the Southern Peripheral Expressway, where the police arrested the four men. The arrested goons admitted to robbing and assaulting around 150 people in three months.

Fears of their intimate images being on several electronic devices to be used for blackmail on a later date is rampant among the victims of this racket, who feel that Grindr has disrupted their personal lives and embarrassed them socially.

Law enforcement branches are determined to identify similar cases and are appealing to citizens with any information to contact the police. 

The police were keen to identify more people involved in similar cases and were appealing to residents with any information to contact the police.

“We want to urge people who use these online dating applications not to share their details with strangers and not to meet them in isolated places; they should meet at public places,” said Police Commissioner Muhammad Akil in a statement.