When a team of Special Investigation Team (SIT) officers decided on January 9, 2003 to visit the Colaba flat of Abdul Karim Telgi, they were in for a surprise.
Telgi, who was then under the custody of the Mumbai Crime Branch probing one of the cases in the multi-crore stamp paper scam, was sprawled on a sofa tucking into a lavish meal. Three police escorts lay asleep closeby while two other inspectors under whose charge he was were not present there.
For Telgi, as both the SIT and Central Burea of Investigation that took over the investigations would later discover, not playing by the rules was a way of life. “He was like the mafia don Al Capone of Chicago. While Capone built an empire based on his muscle power, Telgi used money to buy all he wanted across more than 10 states.”
A commerce graduate from Belgaum’s Gogate College of Commerce, Telgi, whose personal worth at his prime exceeded a hundred crores, began as a lowly office-furniture sales executive on a salary of Rs 3,800 in Mumbai, then graduated to managing a Colaba guesthouse and later a fraudulent manpower consultancy firm that also landed him in jail — his first stint behind bars.
He was released from jail in 1994. The same year he procured a state license for vending stamp papers. He procured printing dye from Nashik-based India Security Press with the alleged connivance of its officials. In no time, Telgi had put in place four of his own printing facilities in the city.
In 2001, the Pune police arrested him in one of the scam’s cases, but before that the Karnataka police had already busted him. Even when Telgi was lodged at a high security jail in Karnataka, he used bribes to soften jail officials and even doctors, which allowed him to talk to his lawyer on his cellphone for hours.