Bangladesh police bust extortion town

DHAKA, July 12, 2010 (AFP) – Bangladesh’s elite security forces said Monday they had made a major breakthrough in the fight against extortion with a raid on town where nearly every resident was involved in racketeering. A series of raids on Lundhi, 90 kilometres (60 miles) south of the capital Dhaka and home to 2,000 people, led to 11 arrests, including two ringleaders of gangs using mobile phones to extort money.

“We believe 80 percent of extortion-related threats made over mobile phones in Bangladesh originate from this village,” Rapid Action Battalion officer Colonel Mamum Mahmud told AFP.

He said officers were “awestruck” to discover nearly everyone — from students aged 14 to elderly school janitors — was involved in mobile phone extortion.

“During calls, they identify themselves as some notorious criminal and then demand their victim send them money or face the consequences — they’ve conned a huge number of people,” Mamum said.

“It’s a very lucrative business. We have identified at least 20 groups who are involved. They have agents in the capital to collect the extorted money and gather personal information about potential targets,” he said.

Extortion using mobile phone has been a huge p