Mumbai: Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh did it with stocks, Sanjay Aggarwal of Home Trade did it with bonds and now it is the turn of one Abdul Karim Telgi who did it with stamp papers. Did what? Swindled money by duping an unsuspecting public - this time, right under the noses of the politicians and cops (but more on that later).
The Telgi scam, as it has come to be known, is so huge that some put the loss to the various state exchequers at Rs 30,000 crore. If that were to be true, then Mehta and his tribe will be made to look like small-time crooks. For those who admire Mehta and his tribe (many do), they can now truly look forward to a new role model who has achieved global levels and standards in skulduggery.
Not everything is known about the case till date as the worms are creeping out slowly (kept under wraps?) but whatever details are available are enough to provide a dictionary definition of the meaning of word skulduggery.
Abdul Karim Telgi hails from Belgaum in Karnataka where in his formative years he is supposed to have officially graduated in commerce and unofficially graduated in the art of skulduggery.
He came to Mumbai in the early nineties and got engaged in a few rackets apart from selling stamps on a commission basis. In 1994, with the help of an MLA and the then revenue minister he managed to obtain a stamp vendor licence. The fact that he had a criminal record even at that time was overlooked (kept under wraps?).
Being a commerce graduate, he understood the laws of demand and supply and he soon realised that there was an acute shortage of supply of stamp papers all over the country. So he decided to bridge the demand gap. Being seasoned in skulduggery, he decided to fill in the demand gap by printing fake stamp papers.
Stamp papers are printed at the government's security press at Nashik, in Maharashtra. Telgi met the security press guys at Nashik and sweet charmed (bribed?) them to declare their machinery as junk and put the machinery on the auction block. At the auction, Telgi was the highest bidder. From where Telgi got the money to bid at the auction is not known (under wraps?).
He then set up his fake stamp printing press at the appropriately named Mint Road in the Fort area of Mumbai. Setting up the press was not enough. It was also necessary to know the serial numbers of the stamp papers issued by the Nashik press. Telgi managed to get the serial numbers from the officials in the know at the press. We can now safely assume that he managed to get the serial numbers by employing his already documented sweet charming ways with the officials of the press.
Project conception, planning and execution over, it was now time for distribution and marketing. Starting with Mumbai, Telgi using his sweet charming ways came to know from the various check-posts in the city the timings of the arrivals of the genuine consignments of the stamp papers. He then slipped in his fake papers to various vendors who then sold the fakes along with the genuine ones.
It started small and then grew progressively, first on a year-on-year basis and then on a quarter-on-quarter basis and in due course he established his presence in eight states.
Till now the story sounds like a case study for the IIMs but can it be for real? Here is a situation where fake papers worth Rs 30,000 crore or even worth Rs 3,000 crore floating around and nobody seems to know about it?
As early as in 1995, the Mumbai police registered seven cases against Telgi in several police stations. At that time, the courts had rejected Telgi's pleas for anticipatory bail. However, he was not arrested despite he being present in the courts when his petition came up for hearing.
R S Sharma, till recently the police commissioner of Mumbai who has transferred to another non-decrepit department thanks to his alleged involvement in the Telgi scam, was in charge of the crime branch at that time. Did the crime branch let Telgi off the hook so that he could expand his business? Ultimately it was the Karnataka police, which arrested Telgi in November 2001 and since then, he has been cooling his heels in a Bangalore jail.
Even after the cases filed in 1995, several police officers were seen in Telgi's company. One cop was seen partying in his house and travelling with him to Karnataka and Goa (distributing fake papers?). Several officers have now been charged and arrested and hopefully nemesis will catch up with them.
The Mumbai police crime department has been labelled as the 'Scotland Yard of the East.' Whoever came up with this perceptive observation needs to have his head examined but many of the crime branch sleuths seem to have fallen for his line hook line and sinker. If reports are to believed some of the sleuths even fancy themselves as Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes, had he been around today, would have been as baffled about the Telgi case as the general public is. In particular, he would have been foxed about the "curious incident about Sharma of the crime branch."
"But I did nothing!" Sharma seems to be saying.
"That is the curious incident," Holmes would have said.