How two trunks and a bomb scare in Shivamogga helped police bust a ‘salted’ con job

Duo cheated gullible victims on the pretext of availing loans for lesser interest rates and handed over to them salt boxes after taking commission.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Nov 07, 2023 | 6:30 AMUpdatedNov 07, 2023 | 6:30 AM

The two abandoned trunk boxes filled with salt near Shivamogga railway station that send Bomb sqaud into a tizzy

A bomb scare that kept Shivamogga on tenterhooks on Sunday, 5 November, fizzled off on Monday, leaving the police with two trunks full of table salt and as many alleged con artistes —  perhaps now ruing their decision to abandon the “tools of the trade” near a railway station.

The scare also brought to light how the duo, identified as Baba and Jabiullah, made lakhs of rupees using just two boxes, salt, and some waste paper.

The story began on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

A few autorickshaw drivers noticed two trunks covered in jute sacks abandoned outside the Shivamogga Railway Station’s compound wall, near their stand around 12.30 pm on 5 November. On closer inspection, they found a “Made in Bangladesh” marking on the sack.

With imagination running wild and the clock ticking away, they alerted the police, who arrived at the scene, sirens blaring. They sanitised the area, and alerted the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) in Bengaluru.

By now, the news of the suspicious boxes has spread in the town. Sandbags were brought in and placed around the boxes to avoid any untoward incident. Barricades came up, keeping the public away. Superintendent of Police GK Mithun Kumar reached the spot and supervised the entire operation.

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Police get a lead

While all these activities were going on, a team of police officers, away from the public glare, were scanning CCTV visuals collected from surveillance cameras in and around the railway station. And they found the first lead.

Officers found a car stopping by the wall on Friday, 3 November. A man alighted, took out the boxes, and left in the vehicle after dumping the trunks by the road. The probe swiftly shifted to the car.

The BDDS personnel along with the anti-sabotage team arrived at the scene by evening and straight away got down to work. By 5.30 am on Monday, 6 November, they ruled out the presence of any explosives and realised that the boxes contained table salt and some waste papers.

The contents have been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory for further checks and confirmation.

Even as the police and other authorities were on their toes, following the standard operating procedure to ensure safety, two men were having a normal time at Tiptur in Tumakuru, some 135 km from Shivamogga. They were oblivious to the long arm of the law coming after them.

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Salted con job

Meanwhile, a case was registered at the Jayanagara Police Station at Kote Circle in Shivamogga. Based on the car’s registration number collected from the CCTV footage, the police reached Tiptur and picked up the two men — both aged 35 — for interrogation on Monday morning.

Once the interrogation began, the men — Baba, 55, hailing from Badravathi but settled in Tiptur, and Jabiullah, 35 — started singing, and the police realised that they had netted big fish.

The duo used to identify people in dire need of money, and after befriending them, offered loans from some MLAs they know of. The credulous victims were also made to believe that the loans would be arranged for a lesser interest rate, but they should pay a commission of ₹5 lakh for every ₹50 lakh.

If the victim agreed to the terms, Baba and Jabiullah would turn up with a trunk box, saying it has ₹1 crore in cash. They would then ask the victim to find one person needing a loan. The men would also place an offer to the victim that he could have the entire cash for an additional commission of ₹5 lakh.

The alleged conmen would then hand over the box to the victim on condition that he should not open it until he found another person to take the remaining amount on loan. The victim would also be told that he would have to pay the interest from the date on which the trunk was opened. They would also collect signed blank cheques from the victims before handing over the box.

If the victim discovered that he had been cheated, the duo would threaten him into silence, saying they would go to the police using their proximity to the MLAs.

After learning about Baba and Jabiullah’s modus operandi, the police found one of his victims, Girish. He had lost ₹5 lakh to the men. The police made him complain and registered a case of cheating and criminal breach of trust against the duo.

“We have arrested two men, Baba and Jabiullah, and we are further interrogating them to see if they had cheated more people,” officer Mithun Kumar told South First.

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Even after stumbling upon an unexpected cheating case, one question remained. Why did they abandon the boxes near the railway station?

The men provided the answer. They had come to Shivamogga with the boxes to provide the “loan” to one Rajesh Jadhav. However, Jadhav did not turn up to collect the boxes, and hence they abandoned them by the road.

The police also learnt that the duo had duped a woman of ₹50,000 in Tiptur before coming to Shivamogga to cheat Jadhav.

And the “Made in Bangladesh” marking on the sack?

The police said it was normal since that country has a thriving jute industry. The police said they were further investigating the case.