Actor Dileep, who allegedly conspired to kill the police officers probing the 2017 female actor abduction and sexual assault case, had tampered with the mobile phones submitted as evidence to the Kerala High Court registry, according to a forensic report by the Kerala police.
Dileep is under trial as the chief conspirator behind the 2017 actor assault. On January 9, this year, the Kerala Crime Branch filed a new FIR against the actor and his associates for plotting to kill the officers who investigated the assault case. The FIR was registered following the release of audio clips implicating the accused by filmmaker Balachandra Kumar.
As part of the investigation, the HC directed the accused to submit their mobile phones on January 29. According to the forensic report, four phones were either formatted or had the data in them deleted at Labindia Private Limited in Mumbai on January 29 and 30. The accused eventually submitted the mobile phones to the court registry on February 20.
After the forensic report revealed that Dileep had tampered with the phones that were surrendered, on Wednesday, the crime branch recorded the statement of one Yogendra Yadav, head of Labindia Private Limited, which was engaged by the actor to remove data from the phones in question. Yadav informed the police that the lab was paid Rs 75,000 per phone for removing data from them.
While the Crime Branch is attempting to recover the lost data, a Times of India report states that a forensic analysis of a hard disk seized from the Mumbai lab is expected to reveal to what extent the accused have tampered with the evidence. A source told the publication that the seized hard disk has been sent to Thiruvananthapuram Forensic Lab. The source further added that of the four phones that had data removed from them by Labindia, only two were submitted to the High Court. The other two, belonging to Dileep’s brother-in-law Suraj, were not produced in court despite the order.
The investigators have so far questioned three people connected to Labindia as well as the person who introduced Dileep’s lawyers to the lab.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Crime Branch also revealed that a former employee of Dileep has given a statement incriminating the actor and his associates. In his statement, the former employee said that he had witnessed Dileep’s brother Anoop threatening to deal with Pulsar Suni, the first accused in the assault case, once he leaves jail. He also said that Dileep’s lawyer had asked him to testify that the conversation with Balachandra Kumar, which triggered the renewed investigation, never happened.
It may be noted that the High Court granted Dileep conditional pre-arrest bail in the conspiracy to murder case on February 7, noting that there appeared to be no material to suggest that the actor had been engaged in a criminal conspiracy targetting the investigating officers.
A week later, the actor moved HC seeking to quash the FIR or, failing that, to at least transfer the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). His plea, filed through advocate Philip T Varghese, alleged that the FIR is a vindictive move by the Kerala police and claimed that an unbiased investigation was unlikely as the petitioners in the case are all senior officials in the department.
On Tuesday, the Crime Branch opposed the actor’s petition and countered, in its response filed before the HC, that it was a “bundle of lies and distorted facts.” The police agency also told the court that the materials collected so far suggest a “dangerous state of affairs” and the lives of several senior police officers, who probed the 2017 female actor sexual assault case, are under threat.
For a full timeline of the female actor abduction and assault case, see here.