From betting on World Cup cricket to making extortion calls, gangsters lodged in Tihar and other prisons of the NCR are using internet telephoney (IP phone) to make a quick buck. Not just that, documents in possession of IANS reveal the underworld lords are running the entire operations of their gangs from inside the jail barracks.
In one such case in February, gangster Rahul Kala, who is an undertrial lodged in Delhi's Rohini jail, extorted Rs 50 lakh from a businessman through a video call, sources said.
On March 6, a joint team of Special Staff and Central District police arrested four accomplices of gangster Keshav Kakkar, after a city-based businessman reported an extortion call made to him through a Whatsapp video call. Kakkar is currently lodged in the Rohini Jail.
A probe revealed that international /VOIP (voice over internet protocol) numbers were used in making the video calls with the help of a Wifi. The agency tried to investigate but failed to track how despite installing mobile jammers, the inmates were able to make calls using the internet from within the jail.
More shocking was that the police appeared hand-in-glove with the gangsters. A constable of the Tamil Nadu Special police, deployed inside the Rohini jail, was caught supplying mobile and internet telephoney gadgets to the gangsters. The incident which seriously compromised the security of the jail was brought to the notice of IG-Prisons who got the accused constable terminated.
A Deputy Superintendent of Police-level officer of the Tihar Jail told IANS on the condition of anonymity: "The gangsters have gone hi-tech. They are using international 4G sim cards for Whatsapp calls, making it impossible for us to track their phone conversations. High-speed internet dongles are smuggled inside the jails and later used by other inmates. The connivance of the lower rung staff of the jail cannot be ruled out."
Sources said that internet telephony is also being exploited by the gangsters in betting related to the ongoing World Cup.
"The inmates easily break the SIMs once they get connected with their gang members outside the jail through Whatsapp video calling. Most dreaded gangsters in Tihar Jail such as Neeraj Bawana are running their gangs and indulging in contract killings, extortion rackets, and other crimes through internet calling," the official said.
"Such gangsters pay huge money to the canteen staff and security constables in jails to obtain banned items. That is the easiest way for such hardened criminals who spend years behind bars to get in touch with their gang members," the officer added.
In March this year, a mobile video surfaced showing a gangster cooking and chatting with other inmates inside his cell in Tihar Jail. The 15-minute clip showed the man filming the facilities he enjoyed inside his cell. He also took a selfie with another inmate.
After the video went viral on YouTube and Facebook, an inquiry was conducted by a DIG rank officer and it was found that the jail officials had provided all facilities to the three inmates -- Salim, Rustom, and Sohrab -- all brothers Lucknow after allegedly taking money from them.
Following a slew of controversies, last year a Magistrate recommended an FIR against the Tihar Jail officials, including the Tihar Director General for allegedly giving favours to Unitech's promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra inside the jail.
However, the data of the Delhi Armed Police's 3rd Battalion, which is tasked with escorting prisoners and convicts to and from the prison, has a different story. Among the items that this team confiscated from the prison inmates till April this year were over 30 mobile phones.
In 2018, the recoveries included 100 mobile phones and watches hidden in body cavities and clothing, more than 1,000 pouches of tobacco products and sharpened metals strips which could be used as weapons, and other banned items such as blades, cash, knives, and even narcotic substances.
Not just Tihar. On February, 11 mobile phones, smart chargers, and batteries were recovered from a packet allegedly thrown inside the Bhondsi jail complex, a month after relatives of three prisoners were booked for allegedly trying to sneak in drugs, mobile chargers and Bluetooth.
Last year, 48 persons were booked after 84 mobile phones and 18 SIM cards were seized from inmates in Bhondsi Jail, according to Jai Kishan Chillar, Superintendent of Police (SP), Bhondsi Jail.
"In February 2018, 22 abandoned mobile phones were seized from Bhondsi jail after a clash between inmates of rival gangs led by Bindar Gujjar and Rajesh Bawana and Ashok Gujjar following which they also attacked jail officials," said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Sumit Kumar.