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Sherlock at home with old-world sleuthing | Delhi News No ratings yet.

Just when Covid-19 struck, private detective Rajesh Chaudhary (name changed) was approached by a woman employee of an IT firm in Gurugram. She wanted to find out if her boyfriend was cheating on her and she was ready to pay a premium for this information. Though not an unusual request, the problem was that the target was very well covered — a wealthy businessman from south Delhi who had PSOs accompanying him everywhere, there was a guard at residential entrance and he used iPhones.

A few days of stalking revealed that the target regularly visited his farmhouse at Satbari on the Delhi-Faridabad border and stayed there for the night. A few cars went in and out, but they were careful not to allow a tail. Chaudhary, therefore, decided to go old school. He sent in an ‘undercover’ agent, aka UC, posing as a job seeker. The agent met the guard a couple of times, pleading for a job and left his phone number behind. For two weeks, there was no communication. Then the phone rang and the UC was asked if he could come to the house immediately.
Apparently, the farmhouse caretaker had to rush to his home in Nepal and a replacement was needed urgently. Th e UC was offered the job and he ‘worked’ at the house for a little over two months and gathered details of the visitors, mainly women, who arrived late at night. He clicked pictures, enabling Chaudhary to submit a report to his client detailing the target’s various ‘affairs’.
Today many sleuths allegedly resort to dubious and illegal measures, including illegally obtaining call detail records and WhatsApp locations of their targets. Recently, Delhi Police blew the lid off a racket involving detective agencies and policemen illegally obtaining and exchanging call detail records for their clients on August 8. In the days that followed, many people, including a policeman from Gujarat, were arrested. However, the traditional tactics of gathering information, like the one used by Chaudhary, is still favoured by most snoops.
TOI spoke to several detectives to learn how they conducted their business at a time when even police have to rely on technology. A large number of “detective agencies” have mushroomed in Delhi-NCR in the last few years. They even have an association called APDI (Association of Professional Detectives & Investigators). While the member fi rms number 186, the unofficial number of such agencies are pegged at around 3,000.
Rajeev Kumar, 54, has run City Intelligence for two decades. Underlining the importance of UCs, Kumar said that he had more than 60 of them on contract, paying them specific needs off cilents on a case-to Most detectives said they too relied on services of such agents as per a case’s requirement. Kumar agreed that information gathering was getting tougher by the day. “Earlier, residents of a locality knew each other so our detectives, posing as insurance agents, bank employees or surveyors, could collect details of the people. Now people are busy with themselves and don’t know what was happening in the neighbourhood and so information is scarce,” he explained.
The first step in extracting information, according to Kumar, is to talk to the maids, driver or gardeners at the target house. “At times, one could visit a chemist’s shop to extract details about the target’s health. But most of these people may not divulge any workable information,” Kumar admitted. says that personal investigations gained popularity after 2001. Prior to that, detective work revolved around corporate probings. In the 1980s, Puri, for example, joined forces with a chartered accountant to learn about financial investigation and later, he started AMX Detectives.
While matrimony assignments, where a family asks agencies to conduct a background check of the target person, doesn’t require a complex snooping exercise, corporate digging requires UCs to familiarise themselves with the working process for at least a month and then operate further without arousing suspicion.
There cas es where wine brands, hospitals, airline companies and hotels conduct service auditing and hire detectives to pinpoint lacunae in service, the satisfaction level or if employees are overcharging customers. Banks and insurance companies hire detectives to check the background of people who have applied for huge loans or big insurance amounts.
Then there are thefts in companies or anti-management activities with one or more employees suspected of influencing others, planning strikes or impeding production, etc. “In such cases, the UC pose s as a worker and collects intelligence, which we use to alert the man another detective. whether an employee is conniving with vendors to supply products to a company. “There are chances that to make money, an employee is in connivance with vendors, purchasing products that can have adverse results,” the detective added.
Agencies reported that ‘debugging services’ were in demand of late. “Before an important meeting or a product launch, we are asked to carry out an electronic s weep of the venue to check for bugs planted by rivals,” revealed a detective.
When asked about the allegin the business, many detectives claimed that underhand techAPDI work according to a protocol formulated by the association, including prohibition on taking out CDR details or bank statements of any individual.
Detectives do, however, admit their reliance on technology, but claim they use legally permitted tools. “In simple cases of extramarital affairs or infidelity, our first recourse is to provide covert bugging or recording devices to the client. It works in a lot of cases,” said Chaudhary. Retired police offi cer LN Rao, who now runs a detective agency, said that he uses recording applications, including within the ambit of the law. runs an agency in Dwarka, retired government offi cials are hired by many companies. “They know of about what’s legal and what’s not. Their professional expertise helps in carrying out a legal investigation efficiently,” said Singh.
Illegal methods come into play when the client is himself adamant information and is ready to shell out large amounts of money. “Usually a freelancer or a small agency is ready to cross the line. However, such operators are few given the risks involved. It’s not easy to get away these days with such tactics,” said another detective.
The rates charged by agencies depend on factors like the target’s profile, complexity of the snoop job and for a pre-matrimonial probe, the fee starts from Rs 25,000 and can rise to Rs 80,000 if a UC is required. The fee for complex cases can be a few lakh rupees.

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