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Man arrested for giving extortion threat to Mahesh Manjrekar

A 34-year-old tea seller was arrested on Thursday for threatening film director Mahesh Manjrekar and demanding extortion amount of Rs 35 crore from him, the police said.

Milind Tulasankar, the accused, was apprehended from Khed in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district by officials of the Anti Extortion Cell (AEC) of Mumbai Crime Branch.

Manjrekar had filed a complaint at Dadar police station here two days ago stating that an unidentified person, claiming to be a member of the Abu Salem gang, had sent him messages on mobile phone, demanding Rs 35 crore.

Tulasankar, who had a tea stall at Dharavi in Central Mumbai, allegedly told police that he decided to attempt extortion as his stall had closed due to lockdown and he needed money.

In text messages sent between August 23 and 25, he allegedly threatened to harm the Bollywood director if money was not paid. He claimed to belong to a gang run by Salem, a gangster and 1993 Mumbai blasts accused who is in jail.

The police registered a case under IPC sections 385 (extortion) on Wednesday.

The AEC found that the mobile number from which messages had been sent had been switched off, but the sleuths managed to find out its location. An AEC team on Thursday raided a house in Sakhroli village in Khed tehsil and nabbed Tulasankar.

He was brought to Mumbai and arrested after interrogation, said inspector Sachin Kadam who led the team.

Tulasankar admitted that he planned the extortion bid after watching Salem’s videos on YouTube, he said.

The accused had returned to his village after he had to shut down his tea stall in Dharavi during lockdown, he told police.

He obtained Manjrekar’s mobile number from a website that provides information about candidates who contest elections, another official said. Manjrekar had contested the Lok Sabha election on MNS ticket in 2014.

A court in Mumbai has remanded the accused in police custody till September 2.

The director thanked the police on Twitter.

“A Big Thank You to the @CPMumbaiPolice & The Anti- extortion cell for the swift action in getting the culprit in custody. Bravo @MumbaiPolice,” he said.

Manjrekar, a national award-winning filmmaker, is known for films such as “Vaastav”, “Astitva” and “Viruddh”.