A posse of policemen had turned up to receive the ransom. A set of sleuths had turned up to catch the kidnappers in the act. So, when the cash changed hands, the good cops ended up training their guns at the bad cops and hollering 'hands up'.
A bizarre portrait of cops as kidnappers was, thus, painted late last month.
It all began on March 29 with a businessman handing over Mahesh Prajapati to the officers of Muchipara police station, alleging that he had been swindled of Rs 2 lakh by the 20-year-old, who had passed off a brass chain as gold. Mahesh and two friends, a young girl and another youth in his early 20s, had pulled the fast one on the businessman.
Muchipara police then got into the act. Mahesh was thrown into lock-up without a case being registered. Next morning, officers asked him to cough up the money. When the youth said he did not have the funds, police demanded it by hook or by crook.
Mahesh then cooked up an abduction plot. He made a call from the cell phone of investigating officer S.N. Ghosh, and cried that he had been kidnapped. The ransom demand: Rs 2 lakh.
'We thought he called one of his gang members. We had no idea it was his father Narayan Prajapati on the other end of the line,' Muchipara thana officer-in-charge Sudhendu Chakraborty later claimed. The father, a Bandel-based trader, panicked and agreed to cough up the sum to save his son.
'Once the deal was finalised, we were told that the man carrying the ransom amount (Narayan) would be wearing a maroon shirt,' said Chakraborty.
Not suspecting foul play 'from his son practically in cahoots with the cops 'Narayan contacted the detective department of the city police and complained that Mahesh had been abducted.
On March 30, the site for the cash handover was finally fixed at Babughat. Narayan turned up as planned and handed over the briefcase containing the money to his son's 'abductors' ' officers of Muchipara police station, in plainclothes.
Lying in wait for this moment were detective department officials. As soon as the money changed hands, they surrounded the 'kidnappers' and held them at gunpoint.
It did not take them long to realise that this cops-and-robbers game was being played with cops on both sides.
Stumped by the style of functioning of his force, police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee has turned the heat on the Muchipara officers responsible for the shameful turn of events. Officer-in-charge Sudhendu Chakraborty has been transferred to the special branch, while additional OC Sidhartha Banerjee has been shunted out to home guard.
Chakraborty told Metro on Monday: 'Whatever we did was for the sake of investigation. We wanted to track down the entire gang of swindlers and the abduction drama was part of our plan.'