Policeman accused of blackmail

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The Independent Online

A "corrupt and dishonest" police officer hatched a plan to make more than £2m by using confidential police information to blackmail sex offenders and wealthy criminals, a court heard yesterday.

PC Amerdeep Johal, 29, sent letters to 10 convicted sex offenders and one suspected sex offender demanding between £29,000 and £31,000 for his silence after getting their details from the Metropolitan Police's computer system, the Old Bailey heard. Another letter, allegedly sent to a suspected fraudster, asked for £89,000.

PC Johal, of Ilford, Essex, also sent text messages to other suspected criminals, offering to help them commit crimes. In one message he posed as a customs officer and proposed a scheme to import cocaine, the court heard. While only 12 letters were sent, when police arrested PC Johal they found others in which he demanded up to £732,000, the court was told. In one he solicited an unspecified amount, but wrote that it had to be "enough to leave London and not have to work or pay a mortgage".

David Markham, for the prosecution, said it was a case about a "gross abuse of public office by a corrupt and dishonest serving police officer". The court heard PC Johal worked at West End Central police station in Westminster. His job was to use the intelligence system Crimint to find information on suspects. Mr Markham told the jury that Mr Johal targeted his victims through the Crimint system and then sent them a letter warning that he intended to expose them unless they made cash payments.

The letter said he had information and photographs relating to "sexual offences" that they would not want to become known of by "neighbours and the community around you". It ended by warning them it was "in your best interest to get in touch", and included his mobile number, the jury heard.

However, many of the recipients went to the police, and officers, realising PC Johal was the only person who had accessed the details of all 12 letter recipients, launched an undercover operation.

Their sting lured PC Johal into sending text messages to a police officer in which he arranged to collect £5,000. But before the meeting took place, officers arrested him. Inside his home, they found further, undelivered, letters, the court was told.

PC Johal does not deny writing or sending the letters but claims a prisoner currently serving time for conspiracy to kidnap, had told him he would be hurt unless he did as he was told. Mr Johal denies 12 counts of blackmail and one charge of misconduct in a public office. The trial continues.