While those blackmailed include some of the highest-ranking government officials like former American Presidents Richard Nixon and Woodrow Wilson, a former US Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Iceland’s incumbent Premier David Gunnlaugsson, some of the high-profile extortionists even include men perched as high as the ex-Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase.
Bhahria Town Chief Malik Riaz Hussain should seek solace in the fact that celebrities are often the easiest targets for extortion.
And it undoubtedly is a global phenomenon, which continues to raise its ugly head in many countries on fairly regular basis, despite the fact that international laws pertaining to extortion are extremely stringent.
About a century ago, the 28th US President Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) was reportedly blackmailed by a noted lawyer Samuel Untermyer of Messrs “Guggenheim, Untermyer and Marshall,” who had tried to extort $40,000 from the American head of state in relation to an affair Wilson had with a fellow professor’s wife, while he was teaching at Princeton University.
The blackmailing lawyer had visited Wilson at the White House on March 4, 1913.
In his book “The History of the House of Rothschild,” author Andrew Hitchcock has shed light on how President Wilson had budged to the blackmailer’s demand of appointing a United States Supreme Court judge on his recommendation if he paid $40,000 out of his own pocket to the woman with whom Wilson had an affair.
Consequently, on June 4, 1916, a Jew Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) was appointed to the US Supreme Court by President Wilson as per his agreed blackmail payment to Samuel Untermyer three years earlier.
Justice Brandeis had gone on to serve the US Supreme Court from 1916 to 1939.
In the case of the 37th American President Richard Nixon (1913-1994), he had to resign in August 1974 after he was certain that he would be impeached and convicted due to his involvement in the Watergate Scandal. Media reports suggested that Nixon had succumbed to his blackmailers and had discussed accommodating blackmail demands of $120,000 on at least on half a dozen occasions.
(Reference: The Washington Post story of May 1, 1974)
This scam had surfaced after the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the headquarters of an anti-Nixon political party at Washington DC’s Watergate Complex on June 17, 1972. They were discovered by a watchman Frank Wills, who had informed the police.
The five “burglars” were being paid by the organisation running Nixon’s election campaign, and following their arrests, they had demanded $1 million from the President to keep their lips sealed.
The Watergate Scandal had been highlighted extensively by the “Washington Post.” In its scoop story, the newspaper had written that the man controlling the White House was involved in clandestine and illegal activities that included bugging the offices of political opponents (Democrats) and people of whom he was suspicious.
In their May 1, 1974 story, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the “Washington Post” had reported: “President Nixon, during a lengthy meeting in the Oval Office on March 21, 1973, told White House counsel John W. Dean III that “you have no choice but to come up with the $120,000” demanded as blackmail payment by one of the Watergate burglars, according to an edited transcript of the meeting.”
The “Washington Post” had gone on to state: “The transcript reveals, Mr. Nixon repeatedly discussed different methods by which as much as $1 million could be paid to the burglars without the payments being traced to the White House.” The purpose of such payments, in the President’s own words, would be “to keep the cap on the bottle,” to “buy time,” to “tough it through.”
Probe showed a “Plumbers Unit” was also established by Nixon aides in the White House with the purpose of gathering political intelligence on perceived enemies.
It was this “Plumbers Unit” that had broken into an office, looking for damaging information on a former US Defence analyst, who had earlier leaked the Pentagon Papers to the media.
The US Supreme Court had unanimously ruled that the President had to hand over the tapes to government investigators, and he eventually complied.
These audio recordings implicated President Nixon, revealing he had attempted to cover up the investigation. The transcripts also revealed Nixon frequently discussing Watergate including the raising of “hush money” to keep the burglars quiet.
One of the transcripts (dated March 21, 1973) had proved Nixon saying: “We could get that. On the money, if you need the money you could get that. You could get a million dollars. You could get it in cash. I know where it could be gotten. It is not easy, but it could be done. But the question is, who would handle it? Any ideas on that?”
In 1791, one of the America’s Founding Fathers, chief staff aide to General George Washington and country’s first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) was blackmailed by the husband of his lover, Maria Reynolds.
James Reynolds, Maria’s husband, had threatened Hamilton to expose the affair and ruin his reputation if he did not send frequent payments. He had extorted over $1,000 from Hamilton and actually allowed him to keep seeing Maria as long as the money kept coming in.
But after James was arrested for forgery, Hamilton had refused to help him and had instead confessed his affair to Congressional investigators and presented them with love letters he had received from Maria.
(Reference: Joanne Freeman’s book “Affairs of Honour: National Politics in the New Republic”)
In June 2015, two journalist sisters were arrested by police for allegedly attempting to blackmail Iceland’s Prime Minister David Gunnlaugsson by threatening to reveal ‘sensitive and embarrassing’ information about him.
(Reference: The June 4, 2015 edition of the Mail Online)
In April this year, a chauffeur (Awad Abdulbagy) who blackmailed the Qatar royal family for £600,000 after finding private photos on equipment left in the back of his car, was jailed by a London court for four years and a half.
The chauffeur had threatened to sell the 350 pictures to a commercial television station or one of the Gulf state’s rivals, including Syria, after they were left on a camera and memory sticks during a royal visit to London in May 2013.
But the Qatari embassy staff, instead of paying the extortionist and his wife Nasren, called police and he was arrested. The court judge was quoted by media as observing: “While the pictures had included “nothing disgraceful,” they had been private and were “highly sensitive” given who they belonged to. I don’t know what they would have paid … but shortly after you turned to criminal threats as to how not just to get a small thank-you, but how to get a life-changing amount of money. These were private pictures of the royal family, with the added sensitivity of pictures that were not meant to be broadcast to the good people of Qatar.”
(Reference: The May 1, 2015 edition, a British newspaper Daily Mail)
Coming to high-profile extortionists, one finds the name of a former Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase (Prime Minister from 2000 to 2004) right on the top.
He was sentenced by a court in January 2014 to four years in jail for taking bribes and for further three years in prison for blackmailing Romania’s former consul in Hong Kong, to run concurrently.
Nastase had been accused of accepting around 630,000 Euros from the manager of a state institution in exchange for appointing her head of the Public Works Department.
Prosecutors claimed the money was spent on importing electric items, home appliances and furniture goods from China and construction work at Nastase’s homes.
When police arrived at his home to arrest Nastase, he had shot himself in the throat in an apparent suicide attempt and was taken to hospital. Released in March 2013, he was sentenced to four years in another case in January 2014, but was again set free that August.
(References: The January 7, 2014 edition of the BBC News and July 25, 2012 edition of the Romania business Insider)
Here follow just a few of the many blackmailing incidents that have taken place in various countries:
In June 2012, as the FBI website states, an American court had sentenced Virgin Islands Police Department Officers Enid Edwards and Francis Brooks each to 151 months in prison.
The court had also ordered Brooks and Edwards to forfeit $11,700 to the United States and Edwards to forfeit an additional $37,400 for illegal financial structuring. Brooks also was ordered to serve five years of supervised release following his prison term and Edwards three years.
In March 2015, a corrupt British policewoman Helen Jones was sentenced to 22 months in jail after obtaining CCTV footage of a street fight to ‘use as a tool’ to blackmail former England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who had played 114 matches for his country till his retirement in 2014.
A March 6, 2015 report of “The Independent” had revealed: “Gerrard was claimed to have “the first punch” by local businessman Paul Lloyd, 35, but prosecutors heard at an earlier hearing that Gerrard was acting as the peacemaker when the fight took place on the evening of August 4, 2013.”
In February 2015, another London Metropolitan Police official Kabeer Yousaf was jailed for six years for blackmailing sex workers at two brothels while on duty.
(Reference: The February 25, 2015 edition of the Daily Mirror)
In June 2001, a blackmailer was jailed for 16 years for blackmailing Tesco, a large British multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer.
Robert Dyer was sentenced after pleading guilty to nine counts of blackmail with menaces and one count of common assault by letter bomb.
Having gained inspiration for crime from an article appearing in the “Reader’s Digest,” he had tried to cover his tracks by wearing kitchen gloves when handling letters and mainly using water to fix on stamps to avoid DNA evidence. The blackmailer had demanded a reward card that could be used to withdraw £1,000 at a time from cash machines.
Using the pseudonym “Sally,” Robert Dyer had threatened to ruin Tesco’s business by targeting customers, initially with letter bombs, and then with pipe bombs. The threats were taken so seriously by Tesco that the company manufactured 100,000 special reward cards to be used in cash machines to meet Dyer’s demand that they be placed in every copy of the local paper on a specific date.
(Reference: The June 12, 2001 edition of Daily Telegraph)
In May 2010, a television news producer Robert Halderman, who was accused of trying to blackmail renowned American television host David Letterman for $2 million by exposing the anchorperson’s extramarital affairs, was sentenced to six months in prison by a Manhattan court.
The guilty Emmy Award winning producer at CBS News was also ordered to serve a four and a half years probation, besides being directed to perform 1,000 hours of community service.
Letterman has hosted 6,028 episodes of “Late Night and Late Show,” and is deemed to be the longest-serving late night talk show host in American television history.
(Reference: A March 5, 2010 report of the ABC News)
The “King of Rock and Roll” Elvis Presley (1935-77) was once the victim of a South African swindler Laurenz Griessel-Landau, whom he had hired as a skin specialist.
Suspicious of his moral character, Elvis had soon fired his dermatologist, who broke into a furious rage and threatened to release the singer’s compromising photographs to the press.
FBI files had revealed: “By negotiation, Presley agreed to pay Griessel-Landau $200.00 for treatments received and also to furnish him with a $315.00 plane fare to London, England. After having demanded an additional $250.00, which Presley paid, the dermatologist had demanded £2,000 for the loss of his practice.”
Another leading Hollywood actor John Travolta was asked to pay $25 million by a pair of alleged extortionists. The blackmailers had threatened Travolta to sell a photograph of his 16-year old late son Jett Travolta taken as he was dying in an ambulance.
In 2009, while a paramedic named Tarino Lightbourn and a Bahamas Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe were detained by the police in this case, an attorney Senator Pleasant Bridgewater was also charged with abetment to extort money from Travolta.
The lady Senator was released on US$40,000 bail, though she had opted to resign.
(Reference: The January 24, 2009 edition of the Mail Online and CNN.com)
In 2007, the FBI had arrested a man who had tried to blackmail top Hollywood actor Tom Cruise with stolen pictures of his Italian wedding to Katie Holmes.
David Hans Schmidt had attempted to extort $1.3 million from the actor in exchange for stolen wedding photographs of him and his new bride.
(Reference: The July 28, 2007 edition of a magazine Hollywood Today)
In 2005, two men were arrested for trying to sell former “American Idol” judge Jennifer Lopez’s stolen wedding video back to the couple for $1 million.
(Reference: The December 30, 2005 report of the Associated Press)
A Brazilian cleaner Roselane Driza was jailed in London in October 2006 for 33 months for blackmailing a female judge and stealing sex videos from a male judge who was her lover.
The cleaner had demanded £20,000. She had threatened the two judges that she would tell the prime minister, the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Lord Chancellor that she had been employed illegally.
Passing sentence, Judge Peter Beaumont, told Roselane that she was “a greedy and determined woman.”
(Reference: The October 20, 2006 edition of The Guardian)
In June 2014, a Chinese farmer was jailed for blackmailing customs officials with photo-shopped nude pictures.
The man, bearing the surname of Li, had been sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined 500,000 Yuan for extorting 453,000 Yuan in total from the officials.
Before his arrest on June 14, 2013, Li had managed to pocket 453,000 Yuan (US$73,000), out of a total demand for 9.47 million Yuan (US$157,000), said the court.
In 2009, a man dubbed “the Swiss gigolo” by the German media was sentenced to six years in prison for defrauding Germany’s richest woman of $9 million and attempting to blackmail her for tens of millions more.
He claimed possessing a tape of the BMW heiress Susanne Klatten (having a 12.5 per cent stake in the German automobile company) in a compromising position with him in a Munich hotel room.
The culprit Helg Sgarbi, who claimed he was a “special Swiss representative in crisis zones,” was also convicted at his trial in Munich of similar scams against various women, including a wealthy Swiss Countess, reported to be around 50 years his senior.
(Reference: March 9, 2009 edition of Daily Telegraph)
Last but not least, in 1971, Australia’s Qantas Airlines had received a call from a man calling himself “Mr. Brown.” He claimed that a bomb had been planted on a Qantas flight bound for Hong Kong, and he would detonate it if they did not pay him $500,000.
To prove he was serious, Mr. Brown even directed the authorities to an airport locker containing another bomb.
The airline agreed to pay the ransom, which Mr. Brown collected in front of their head office in Sydney. Qantas later received a phone call from the perpetrator, telling them there was no bomb aboard the plane. The threat had been a hoax.
Months later, authorities tracked down a suspect named Raymond Poynting, who had attracted attention with his lavish purchases. Poynting directed the police toward the plot’s mastermind: British criminal Peter Macari.
Police had found $138,000 of the ransom stashed in Macari’s house, and he was soon arrested. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and deported back to Britain.
(Reference: The January 2, 2014 edition of the Herald Sun)
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