Abdul Karim Telgi: Tale of how a jackfruit seller became the country’s standout con man
A jackfruit seller to a stamp vendor turned master forger, Telgi (58) first came into focus in 2003, two years after his arrest that unfolded an unholy nexus between criminals, politicians and police.pune Updated: Oct 27, 2017 16:34 IST
With more than 20 convictions, imprisonment to which count upto 40 years if calculated separately, and fine slapped on him crossing ₹250 crore, the multi-crore stamp paper scam kingpin Abdul Karim Telgi died on Thursday at Bengaluru after prolonged illness.
A jackfruit seller to a stamp vendor turned master forger, Telgi (58) first came into focus in 2003, two years after his arrest that unfolded an unholy nexus between criminals, politicians and police.
Arrested on November 22, 2001 at Bengaluru, Telgi was booked in total 48 cases, including the most high profile case at Pune’s Bund Garden police station in which police had recovered stamp papers worth the value of ₹500 crore. The CBI later clubbed all the cases under stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
Born in to a poor family at Khanapur, in the border district of Belgaum, Telgi after being convicted by Pune court in 2007 had told HT, “I may not live long to serve full sentence because of many ailments that I suffer from.” Telgi, according to medical reports, was HIV positive and suffered from meningitis.
Known for his proximity with police officials, Telgi in 1998 procured a stamp paper machine from the Indian Security Press to run the racket of printing and selling fake stamps. To sell stamps as vendor, Telgi had made an application before the then revenue minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in 1994.
Four years later, Telgi procured the machine and started publishing fake stamp papers in Mumbai. In 2003, police recovered fake stamps worth ₹3,000 crore, which never really came into the market. His arrest and the subsequent interrogation led to rivalry with the Maharashtra police force.
As the scam unfolded, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by deputy commissioner of police CH Wakde arrested senior police officials, bureaucrats and politicians. “The SIT under me arrested 67 persons including some high profile names. In two years, SIT unfolded the entire scam before the case went to CBI in 2004,” Wakde told Hindustan Times.
However, over a period, some of the persons were discharged from the case while many are still awaiting trial. Among the most high profile names that surfaced in the scam, was the then home minister of Maharashtra Chhagan Bhubal, who had to lose his ministry following barrage of allegations even as no case was filed against him.
According to Telgi’s advocate, Milind Pawar, the kingpin’s wife and 11 others are still facing trial at a local court in Pune, while other high profile officials including former Mumbai police commissioner Ranjit Sharma and DCP Pradeep Sharma were discharged by the court.
His last conviction in Maharashtra came in 2011, in a case lodged in 2005 at Mulund police station, after Telgi’s consistent approach to plead guilty rather than arguing against the case made by prosecution.
Following the advice of his wife Shahida, a co-accused in the scam, Telgi pleaded guilty in 2007. “I am the only breadwinner in my family,” he pleaded before the special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act court. The couple have a daughter, Sana.
Judge Chitra Bhedi responded by saying: “It’s only because you have repented that you have got lenient punishment. If you had opted for a trial, you might have been more severely punished.”
Tearful and hands folded, Telgi said: “Madam, I am suffering from various ailments which have no cure (a reference to him being HIV-positive). It is only after consulting my wife that I have decided to face the world.”
The case was registered at Bund garden police station. The court imprisoned him on multiple counts with total sentence of 29 years with a whopping fine of ₹250 crore. However, as the imprisonment was to be served concurrent, Telgi’s sentence was compressed to 13 years. After the 2007 verdict, Telgi confessed his crime in a series of other cases including Mumbai, Nashik and Bengaluru.
“There were some 48 cases against Telgi at various places in Maharashtra and elsewhere. Most cases against him from Maharashtra have been disposed off,” said Pawar
Interestingly, though the court has imposed a fine of ₹252 crore on Telgi, the CBI’s claim of the total magnitude of the scam was only ₹172 crore. The agency has claimed that the fake stamp papers, having face value of ₹3,000 crore recovered from a godown in Mumbai by the state SIT, never came into the market and hence, cannot be considered a component of the scam.
However, as per the information submitted by CBI to the special court of MCOCA in Pune, Telgi had 13 properties in Mumbai and Thane. The price assessed by the investigating agency of these properties was around ₹2.25 crore in 2004. Telgi purchased these properties mainly during 1995 to 2001, during which his illegal activities were also at the peak.
Born in 1959 at Khanapur in Belgaum district
In 1994, Telgi obtained license from the then revenue minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh to sale stamp papers
In 1998, Telgi procured a stamp paper machine from Indian Security Press by bribing officials
In 1999 he started selling fake stamp papers in the market
Telgi was first arrested by Karnataka police in 2001
In 2003, Telgi was arrested by Pune police under an FIR lodged at Bund Garden police station
Telgi was convicted in 2007 in Bund Garden, which was one of the biggest case against him
In 2015, Telgi was shifted to Banglore Jail for hearing on other cases