Page last updated at 17:15 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Pc's greed led to blackmail plot

By Chris Summers
BBC News

Amerdeep Johal
Pc Johal sent out letters to 11 sex offenders

A policeman has been jailed for six years for trying to blackmail sex offenders and extort money from other criminals.

When Pc Amerdeep Singh Johal, his wife and young son arrived back from a shopping trip to the Lakeside mall in Thurrock, Essex, on 25 July 2007, he was in for a surprise.

Waiting for him at his home in Ilford, east London, were officers from Scotland Yard's anti-corruption unit, the Department of Professional Standards (DPS).

"I've been stupid," said Pc Johal, who immediately knew why they wanted to speak to him.

All I ask is for the reasonable sum of 31,000 in cash for my understanding silence
One of the blackmail letters

The 29-year-old was based in the Integrated Borough Operations (IBO) office in Westminster and his job involved checking addresses and individuals on police databases for "frontline officers".

A few weeks before his arrest he had sent out anonymous letters to 11 sex offenders and another criminal, demanding money from them in return for his "co-operation".

He had targeted people living in his own borough of Redbridge and accessed their details on a police computer system called Crimint.

Pc Johal threatened to expose the sex offenders to their neighbours and employers if they did not pay him between 29,000 and 31,000.

He also researched suspected drug dealers on Crimint, including one who was a member of a syndicate known as the League of Four English Gentlemen.

In one case he wrote to an individual, "exuding menace", and demanded 89,000 as a "goodwill gesture".

E-fits of the two men
Pc Johal claimed these two men had been threatening him

Pc Johal wrote to the man: "You will have the opportunity to expand your (drug) business" and went on to mention the recipient's wife and four children, adding "families are so precious, aren't they?"

He also texted one of his victims, and wrote: "I need enough money for me to leave London and not have to worry about work or mortgages."

During his trial prosecutor David Markham asked Pc Johal: "Are we getting a glimpse there into your own plan? Were you bored, in a rut, sitting in your pod at the IBO?"

"No. Work is work and I have always kept it separate from my personal life," he replied.

His blackmail plan unravelled as soon as one of his victims contacted the police.

Scotland Yard deployed an undercover officer to respond to one of the blackmail letters, promising to pay 5,000.

Pc Johal immediately responded by texting a friend, known as "Chatham Charlie", saying he was about to come into 5,000 and wanted to invest it to get a good return.

'I was threatened'

Pc Johal's defence during the Old Bailey trial was that he himself was the victim of extortionists.

He claimed he sent out the blackmail letter under duress and said he was being extorted by two men who said they were acting for a convicted kidnapper, named as Baljit Bhandal.

He claimed the men first approached him in October 2006 and over the next nine months they became increasingly menacing.

At one point he said he burst into tears when they showed him a photo of his son and then slashed it with a knife.

Pc Johal even drew up e-fits of the two men - both Asian, one bald and the other a bearded Sikh - with the help of a forensic imaging expert at the University of Kent.

Exterior of Scotland Yard
There are strict guidelines in place regarding the use of intelligence databases and if anyone abuses it that is taken extremely seriously
Scotland Yard spokesman

But they were figments of his imagination, as was the black Bentley he claimed he saw them driving around in.

Nobody else ever saw the pair or the car and when police raided his house they did not find a USB memory stick with drafts of the blackmail letters already on it, which Pc Johal said they had given him.

Pc Johal admitted he had never mentioned the "extreme pressure" he was under to any of his colleagues or even to his wife, Jaswinder, who stood by him throughout the trial, and who knew nothing of his activities.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "There are strict guidelines in place regarding the use of intelligence databases and if anyone abuses it that is taken extremely seriously.

"It is something which is flagged up again and again in training.

"On the rare occasions it has occurred there will be a thorough investigation and disciplinary proceedings - or even criminal proceedings - as in this case."

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