When police officer Shekhar Tore heard about the arrest of Sunil Kulkarni it rang a bell. Tore was posted in Pune 20 years ago when he arrested Kulkarni for allegedly duping a home-loan seeker.
“He was a “Natwarlal” in the making,” Tore says about Kulkarni, who is now under arrest in Mumbai for being the head of a cult called Shifu Sunkriti that is accused of entrapping and cheating young people.
Tore, who is now posted at the Bandra division of the Mumbai crime branch as an assistant commissioner of police, was an assistant police inspector in Pune when he busted Kulkarni, a confident and smooth-talking commerce graduate.
Kulkarni, since his brush with the law in Pune, has become the ring leader of an alleged drug and sex syndicate that has entrapped hundreds of young people, police suspect. The 54-year-old was arrested on April 20 on Mumbai High Court’s order after a city-based couple filed a petition claiming that Shifu Sunkriti had entrapped their two daughters, who are in their early twenties.
Shifu Sunkriti’s Facebook page has more than 4000 members and posts on it make a range of claims: from running a “centre for neuro plasticity centre” to training people in “miraculous self energy enhancement”.
Making tall claims seemed to be Kulkarni’s nature, said Tore. “He had all the traits of a master conman,” Tore said, recalling his interrogation of Kulkarni.
Tore in March 1997 nabbed Kulkarni from a lodge in Bhosari, a suburb near Pune, while acting on the complaint of a home-loan seeker. Kulkarni had allegedly posed as a bank official and fleeced at least Rs 3 lakh from the man to sanction a loan. He was camping in the lodge to collect more money when Tore booked him for cheating and fraud and took him into custody for interrogation.
Tore realised Kulkarni, who hailed from Kolhapur, was no ordinary criminal. “He was barely 30 then. He had a pleasant personality and could impress anyone with his fluency in English,” Tore said.
Kulkarni used his knowledge of varied subjects to entrap the gullible. “He is a jack of all trades with an amazing grip over general knowledge. He would use his communication skills to strike a chord even with a stranger,” Tore said.
Not surprisingly, Kulkarni used the same skills to “settle” the case with the complainant months after Tore booked him. “I lost track of him afterwards,” Tore said.
The Mumbai police have allegedly found that Kulkarni changed his base to several cities before he was arrested in Delhi in 2014 for sexually abusing a minor and booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act. He shifted to Mumbai after he got bail in that case.
When Tore heard of Kulkarni’s arrest, he contacted his superior, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime, Vinay Rathod.
Tore’s information came handy for Rathod, who is a surgeon, in tearing apart Kulkarni’s claims that he was a doctor and a psychiatrist. Sources in Mumbai Police told Hindustan Times that during interrogation Kulkarni first claimed he had specialised in anatomy from a college in Nagpur.
When Rathod pressed him, Kulkarni changed his claim and said he had studied physiology. However, it did not take long for Rathod to call his bluff and a brief check of the medical council records corroborated the police findings.
The Mumbai High Court on Tuesday called the findings of the police probe into Shifu Sunkriti--which was presented in a sealed envelope--“shocking.” Kulkarni’s past therefore may hold more secrets.