//Holes in NRI kidnap case

Holes in NRI kidnap case

Mumbai, Jan. 19: Pune police were today trying to crack the mystery of two UK-based Indian women being allegedly kidnapped on their way to Pune within hours of their flight landing in India.

The complaint came last night from another NRI, 30-year-old Anirudh Mani, who claimed to have received a Rs 350-crore ransom call for his two colleagues’ freedom.

But as he told his story that officers say is full of holes, he couldn’t explain why he had waited three whole days before contacting the police.

Mani said Yasmin Khan and Sheetal Khanna had arrived from London on January 15 to help him set up a call centre in Pune for their British company. As soon as their Air Sahara flight landed in Mumbai, they set off in a private vehicle for Pune, where Mani has been staying for some time.

The women stopped for lunch at a hotel-cum-resort in Lonavla, a hill station off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, from where they called him to say they were on their way.The next call came a few hours later, with an unknown voice saying the women hadbeen kidnapped and it would cost him Rs 350 crore to get them released.

But the next day, the caller rang up to say the kidnappers “had dealt with the women”, and a ransom would no longer be needed, Mani told Deccan Gymkhana police.Mani was summoned to the police station this morning, but till evening no formal complaint had been lodged.

Sources said informal inquiries suggest these women hadn’t travelled on any London-Mumbai flight on January 15. The police have sent teams to the Lonavla hotel to find out if the women had been spotted there on January 15.

“There are a lot of inconsistencies in Mani’s statements, and we have so far not found any evidence to support his claim of kidnapping,” Pune police commissioner D.N. Jadhav said.

The police wouldn’t reveal the name of Mani’s London-based company and how long he has been in Pune. But investigations revealed he has an apartment and had bought four cars using bank loans, but has failed to repay the loan. hadn’t been able to pay the monthly instalments.

Mani told the police his company had signed an agreement with him and the two women that made it liable to pay a compensation if any harm came to any of them on a foreign assignment.“I don’t have the exact details of this company, but the agreement that he showed us is not a registered document. Besides, this alleged abduction had happened even before they reached Pune,” the commissioner said.

Despite the holes in Mani’s story, the police have accorded the case priority because it involves the high-profile BPO industry.Pune has emerged as a major call-centre hub and has been attracting young professionals from across the country.