This article has been written by Nimisha Dublish of Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU, Delhi. The article revolves around the life of Abdul Karim Telgi and the scam he committed. The scam committed by him was one of the biggest scams in India that took place in 2003, after a decade of Harshad Mehta’s Scam (1992).
IT has been published by Rachit Garg.
Table of Contents
India has a history of scams that took place on a national level. After the greatest scam of 1992 by Harshad Mehta, a bigger scam came into the picture in 2003. The scam is famously known as The Stamp Paper scam. A stamp paper is widely used around the world to collect taxes on documents requiring stampings, such as leases, agreements, receipts, court documents and many others. The scam was related to the printing and making of fake stamps and stamp papers. The mastermind behind this scam was Abdul Karim Telgi who initially started as a vendor and then went on to work in travel companies and came out with the idea of fake stamps.
Who was Abdul Karim Telgi
Abdul Karim Telgi was a fruit and vegetable vendor at the Mumbai railway station. He was born and brought up in a middle-class family. His father was a Class IV railway officer. The family faced various financial crises but they managed to earn a living. They had money to fulfil their basic needs by selling fruits and vegetables at Khanapur railway station. The station used to serve as a point for 12 trains in the 1970s. Telgi completed his schooling at Sarvodaya Vidyalaya and went to Gogte College of Commerce to acquire a B.Com degree. Mumbai was the first place where he searched for jobs after completing his education. He was assigned the post of Sales Executive at Fillix India. Due to his continuous bad performance, he had to leave that job. Then he headed towards South Mumbai and was appointed as a Manager at Kishan Guest House. He was still not satisfied with the job and because of his laziness, he had to again leave the job. He had intentions of making money in less time so he thought to head towards the middle east and start earning there.
In the 1980s he went to Saudi Arabia and stayed for 7 years. It was after these 7 years he realised that he couldn’t stay longer than this and returned back to Mumbai.
The vision of making more money in less time made him do effortless jobs by cutting short methods. This lead him to the underworld. He managed to make connections with the underworld, politicians and bureaucrats. His 7 years in Saudi Arabia inclined his interests toward the tourism scams. He saw travel agents used to send people to Saudi Arabia for employment in illegal ways. He then started a travel agency called Arabian Metro Travel Company. His regular fraudulent activities involved making fake passports and defrauding clients. To send people to Saudi Arabia he attempted doing forgery as well but it had some questionable credentials which were more vulnerable to getting caught.
He had a team to create a whole lot of fake documents, ECR (Emigration Check Required) passports, etc. He made his contacts so strong in 7 years that he was able to send people illegally abroad and earn easy money. Repeatedly his demand in the market rose and people with dreams of going to a foreign land were ready to pay any amount for doing so.
But slowly the process of sending people abroad grew rigorous. The process was no longer smooth and easy. People got stuck because they didn’t receive clearance and hence were not able to go abroad. In 1991, various people sued him for his activities.
In 1993 he was booked under the VISA racket crime and sent to jail. In jail, he made the connection with another fraudster Ratan Soni who was arrested for fraud on the Indian Stock Exchange. The meeting gave rise to the idea of one of the biggest scams in India.
The stamp paper scam
When Telgi met Ratan Soni in jail, he learned tricks and ways of committing crimes and how to make big money. Ratan Soni was able to influence him to commit big crimes rather than committing crimes for just a few thousand. They formulated ideas for various profitable ventures.
Telgi came to know that the most unmonitored government department at that time was of Stamp-Paper office. They got the idea of creating fake stamps and printing almost a proxy currency. The profits in such frauds were in crores at that time. Both of them had connections with the underworld, Government officials and politicians. They realised that this was enough to start the biggest scam in India. In the 1980s both of them got to know that there was a requirement of stamp papers for a host for legal purposes. They sold it for less than Rs.100 at that time. They knew that through politicians and government officials they can achieve what they want. The only requirement was to keep them happy and impressed. Samajwadi Janata Party’s MLA Anil Gote was approached by Telgi. Telgi asked him to arrange the meeting with the then Revenue Minister of Maharashtra’s Congress government Vilasrao Deshmukh. Telgi managed to acquire a license and open a stamp paper office in Mumbai in 1994. To be on the safer side and have access to larger resources, he opened various bank accounts and offices in Mumbai.
He purchased scrap machinery through his contacts from the auction of Indian Security Press in Nasik. He used these machinery for fraudulent purposes. He made full use of his connections and even purchased all their raw materials from the Indian Security Press. To make the fake stamps look real, he purchased the same ink and everything from Nasik Press. By using this technique, he started printing the exact replica of the stamps that were printed by the government of India.
He created a wide network and offered commissions of 20% to 30% to the vendors. The government used to give only 3% of the commission. This attracted the vendors and the distribution of stamps was made easy. Even Vendors were surprised and weren’t able to differentiate between the original and fake stamp papers. More than 350 vendors sold his duplicate stamp papers to banks, insurance companies and corporates.
The connections he made helped him create a scarcity of original stamp paper. This made him sell his own duplicate stamp papers in the market. He blocked the supply of original stamp paper by diverting it to a superficial address and injecting his duplicate stamp papers into the market in place of the original. It was then that the market was full of fake stamp papers. He got fake stamps for almost every purpose from revenue stamps to share transfer certificate stamps.
He spread his business in 13 states and 74 cities. He had more than 170 offices and over 900 employees to do his fraud work. He had 120 bank accounts made to commit fraud.
Timeline of the Telgi scam
9 August 2000– Two persons were arrested with fake stamp papers and stamps worth Rs.9.92 crores.
November 2001– Telgi’s arrest in Ajmer.
January 2002– Special Committee formed. Headed by R Sri Kumar.
9 December 2003– CBI took over the case.
22 December 2003– Vijay Desai was arrested by SIT.
10 February 2004– NARCO test of Telgi reveals significant names.
26 May 2004– CBI seizes worth Rs.1.5 crores of fake non-judicial stamp papers.
9 August 2004– SC grants 3 months more to CBI to complete the investigation in Telgi’s case.
23 March 2005– Telgi appeared in a special CBI court in Mumbai.
21 September 2005– Telgi appeared in special court via video conferencing for the second fake stamp paper case.
17 January 2006– Telgi was given 10 years of rigorous imprisonment along with Rs.50000 fine for his role in the 1995 fake stamp paper case.
6 February 2006– Telgi confesses his role in the 1995 fake stamp paper case before the court in Pune.
28 June 2007– Telgi was sentenced to 13 years of rigorous imprisonment along with Rs.202 crore fine. He was convicted under the Indian Penal Code and Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
In the year 2000, someone informed the police regarding the inflow of fake stamp papers. Two Couriers of Telgi were caught during the transportation in the state of Karnataka. His phone was tapped and police kept an eye on him. Telgi was arrested when he was on the way to Ajmer. The brain behind the Stamp paper scam was arrested and sent behind the bars.
In June 2003, there was a case on Telgi by the Police Station of Bund Garden. All the duplicate and fake stamp papers were recovered and a Special Investigation Committee was made, which was headed by senior officers of the department. In the investigation, it was found that India Security Press was also involved in the scam. It was found by them that government officials of the department helped in the transfer of printing technology to Telgi. At that time the Special department took no actions against the press. The scam was being carried out since 1994 and the volume of the scam was really big.
Further investigation led to the discovery of the fact that the politicians, government officials, and influential leaders who were a part of the Nasik Press were also involved in the scam. Anil Gote, the MLA from Dhule was put behind the bars for 4 years. However, the charges against Anil Gote were revoked because there were several other big names as well who were involved in the scam. The Special department conducted NARCO Test on Telgi and got to know these big names. Chaggan Bujhbal, Deputy CM of Maharashtra and Sharad Pawar, Union Agricultural Minister were mentioned by Telgi in the NARCO Test. To escape the liabilities, Telgi spread the controversy that he was nervous and conscious during the test, which led to the deletion of these two names from the investigation. The case was then transferred to the CBI department.
CBI found some more big names who were the MLAs, Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mumbai Police Commissioner, Former Joint Commissioner of Mumbai Police(Crime Branch), former Deputy Commissioner of Mumbai police, and suspended IPS officer. Many cases were filed against these officers by CBI.
In 2006, Telgi pleaded guilty and was convicted. He was given 30 years of imprisonment and a huge fine of Rs. 202 Crores. Later the imprisonment was cut down to 13 years.
In jail also he used to receive VVIP treatment. As he was already a mastermind and had influential connections, he managed to arrange for a comfortable life in prison. In 2007, he was on the trial for CBI cases in Chennai for the offences under Section 255, Section 248 , Section 259, Section 420, Section 467, Section 468, Section 471, Section 474 and Section 475 of the Indian Penal Code along with Section 13(1) read with Section 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1998.
Telgi was suffering from various diseases. He was declared HIV positive in 2002. In 2005, he claimed that he was injected with the virus by the people who were scared of his power and he was denied treatment for his ailments like diabetes and HIV. He was suffering from diabetes and hypertension for around 20 years. He died on 23 October 2017 due to meningitis at Victoria Hospital, Banglore. He died before his imprisonment tenure. He was just 56 years old then. After his death, all the charges and allegations were withdrawn and people were released.
After his death, many people got interested in knowing about the scam. So the filmmakers decided to make a Hindi- language thriller ‘Mudrank- The Stamp’ directed by Shakir Shah in 2009 to explain and show insights into the Stamp scandal. In 2020, ‘Paper’ was launched starring Rohit Roy as Telgi in the web series. A documentary series of 8 scams had one of its episodes on Telgi’s scam named ‘Fake stamp papers’. Hansal Mehta has also decided to launch ‘Scam 2003’ as a sequel to Scam 1992.
Even after Telgi was convicted and put behind the bars, there were still many complaints and cases against him. The government was severely affected by the scam and took action to make laws stronger. Many renowned and high-level people were also involved in the scam which showed how our system is severely affected and corrupt from the inside. The government took measures and increased the security checks to ensure that no such big scam happens again in future. There was a backdrop on the part of the government also because the Stamp Department was not regulated properly at that time. This was a big lesson for the government to properly regulate and keep a check on each and every department. The scam led to the increase of fake stamps in the market which made it difficult for even the sellers to identify them and discard them after the scam came into the eyes of the government.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What did Abdul Karim Telgi do?
Abdul Karim Telgi was convicted for the scam of counterfeiting the stamp paper for which he was jailed for 13 years.
How did the scam come into the eyes of people?
A team of Bengaluru police arrested Abdul Karim Telgi from Ajmer in Rajasthan. The police got a tip from someone and also arrested 2 people before Telgi. Those people were found with fake stamps.
Where is Telgi now?
After committing so many offences he was put behind bars. He died at the age of 56 due to multiple organ failure.
Who did the paper scam in India?
Abdul Karim Telgi who was initially a fruit and vegetable vendor went on to commit the biggest scam in India. He had cultivated many connections with government officials and politicians.
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