After languishing 13 years in jail, Abdul Karim Telgi departed from this world. He had shot to fame after his name had surfaced in the multi-crore fake stamp paper racket scam. Almost 15 years ago a reporter discovered something fishy in Nashik bungalow and then exposed this fiddle; and now we know it as the Telgi scam. There was a bungalow in Nashik, Maharashtra which used to remain locked all the time. No one lived there; some people would come in cars and tempo-vans late in the night and then leave in the morning. This caused some qualms and subsequently a newspaper report was tipped off. So this reporter kept an eye and one day decided to make the way in Bungalow. When he could enter inside there was no one around. The place was filled with boxes and bags of stamp papers. He took some as samples and also clicked pictures. It was later discovered that Telgi was printing these in his press in Mumbai. He owned a printing press business for wedding cards, business cards, etc. In the nights he used to load up the machines with ‘real’ stamp paper plates and print them. These were then transported to this Nashik bungalow. Nashik is the place under influence of Bhujbals, then home minister.
Later on there was another report that says, few employees within the Nashik Security Press (which prints our currency) were involved in this scam. The press discards old machinery and buys new after specific years of usage. So they purposely declared a few machines and plates as worn and torn and sold it off in the usual auction process. Telgi and his buddies purchased these machines. It was all pre-planned. Also the plates were to be destroyed as per procedure, but that was deliberately not done. The corruption in administration has always compromised the integrity of government. So Telgi and his clique had real printing plates and real printing presses for printing genuine stamp papers. So the stamp papers being produced were real, but just that the Indian government was not printing them.
Well the bungalow we were talking about is next to Bhujbal’s bungalow. Bhujbal’s associates own that bungalow. The NCP leader had intimate knowledge and even participated in all of this. In fact, a DCP and ACP from Mumbai Police were also involved. The chain was quite big as this was not a simple thing to do. There were Nasik Security Press personnel, Bhujbal, Pawar, the police and many stamp paper vendors in the scam. Anil Gote, a former MLA, politicians Sharad Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal were alleged for the links with the kingpin Abdul Karim Telgi. Gote flashed a photograph in the court purported to be that of Pawar with Azim Telgi, brother of Abdul Karim Telgi, at a function at Khanapur in 1994. He claimed before Special Judge Chitra Bhedi that neither Antim Totla nor Prakash Jakhade was accused or witnesses in the case, yet the two had been subjected to narco-analysis tests. Gote argued that the names of Bhujbal and Pawar had figured in narco-analysis tests of Telgi conducted in Bangalore in 2003 which were recently aired by television channels. Hence, they too should be subjected to similar tests. Amidst of controversy, both Pawar and Bhujbal have denied meeting Telgi.
Telgi had shot to fame when in 2002 he had showered as much as the Rs 93 lakh in one night on one bar girl in a dance bar in Mumbai. He lived with all lavishes, though he was born in lower middleclass family and lost his father at a very young age. He educated himself and got into printing business in Mumbai and that’s how his doors were opened in multimillion scams. Telgi not only dropped names, he also explained his modus operandi, revealed places where he operated, his business associates, how he started his racket, the number of bank accounts he had, and what he owned. Telgi was arrested in 1991. Other big names, which found mention in Telgi’s confession, were those of Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sameer Bhujbal, nephew of Chhagan Bhujbal.
In 2002-03, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) busted his racket after tapping a number of phones. Telgi was sentenced to a 30-year jail term for printing counterfeit stamp papers in India and selling them on to various institutions. The amount involved was then estimated to be worth billions of rupees. A fine of Rs 202 crore was imposed on Telgi. He started off by selling stamps at his vending stall and later he started fulfilling large statutory and legal requirements demand for stamp papers which government was not providing in enough numbers to meet the huge demand in the country. The size of the scam was reportedly said to be somewhere between Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 crore. All of this was happening right from the early 1990s. Telgi moved to more complexes counterfeiting when he began to counterfeit stamp paper. He appointed 350 people as agents who sold the fakes to bulk purchasers, including banks, insurance companies, and stock brokerage firms. The size of the scam was estimated to be more than Rs 200 billion ($3.1 billion).One aspect of the scandal that caused much concern was that it required the involvement of many police officers and other government employees including Nikhil Khotari. For example, one Assistant Police Investigator was found to have a net worth of over Rs 1 billion ($16 million), despite earning a salary of only Rs 9,000 ($140) per month. Then police officer S M Mushrif, known for the book “Who killed Karkare” took decisive measures on this case.
Telgi, a small-town lad from Khanapur in Belgaum, Karnataka, sold peanuts at railways stations in the 1980s to make a living. He got into racketeering in the 1990s by selling fake stamps that cost him the proverbial peanuts to make. Telgi’s methods were simple. His army of unscrupulous young men, many of them are ambitious MBAs who approached financial institutions and large private organisations and struck up deals with the clerks in charge of stamps. The clerks were told they could avoid the hassle of running around to buy the stamps; instead the executives would deliver them to their offices. Even from inside prison, Telgi had managed to keep the wheels of his business moving. The interrogation of four of his foot soldiers who were arrested in October 2002 in Delhi revealed that each sold fake stamps worth Rs 50,000 on average each day. During the subsequent seizure, Delhi Police recovered fake stamps worth Rs 216 crore. Since early 2001, fake stamp dealers, all part of Telgi’s empire of deceit, have been arrested in Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana. Among Telgi’s clientele have been United India Insurance Co., Life Insurance Corporation, New India Assurance, National Insurance, Oriental Insurance, Max New York Life Insurance, Reliance Insurance, Tokyo General Insurance, IFFCO, Development Credit Bank, Bank of Baroda, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Bharat Overseas Bank Ltd, Bank of Maharashtra, Global Trust Bank and Union Bank of India. Telgi has 35 properties in Maharashtra and Karnataka and many more should come to light. Investments were liberally made in film financing in Bollywood – it turns out that Sana Film Financial Corporation, named after Telgi’s daughter, had generously pumped money into the industry.
Till he lived, may it be in jail or hospital; he maintained his wealth flowing in all directions, now after his death the legacy may halt. But with his death many questions related to scam goes unanswered.
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