Gujarat conman with fake PMO card baffles Jammu and Kashmir cops

ByMir Ehsan and Maulik Pathak, Srinagar/ahmedabad
Mar 18, 2023 01:15 PM IST

Kiran Patel from Gujarat is not an important man, but a conman from Gujarat who successfully misled the government apparatus in the India’s most security-sensitive state that he was a representative of PMO. But in February 2023, he pushed his luck too far.

For his 1,595 followers on Twitter, Kiran Bhai Patel was as an important man; a resident of “34, Meena Baug, New Delhi”; a PHD from a college in Virginia, an MBA from IIM Trichy; “thinker, strategist, analyst, and campaign manager”, all rolled into one. For the Jammu & Kashmir administration, too, he was an important man -- additional director (strategy and campaigns) in the Prime Minister’s Office. Important enough for his timeline to be filled with videos of him, dressed in a Nehru jacket and sunglasses, going from one location to another in the conflict-ridden state with a huge police entourage, carrying weapons around him.

An undated photo of Gujarat conman Kiran Patel with his security. Patel has been arrested for cheating, forgery and impersonation as an as an additional director (strategy and campaigns) in the PMO. (PTI) PREMIUM
An undated photo of Gujarat conman Kiran Patel with his security. Patel has been arrested for cheating, forgery and impersonation as an as an additional director (strategy and campaigns) in the PMO. (PTI)

But in February 2023, he pushed his luck too far.

He threw a fit in Budgam, asking why the deputy commissioner wasn’t there in person to receive a person of such eminence. His story unraveled quickly. For Kiran Patel is not an important man, but a con man from Gujarat who successfully misled the government apparatus in the India’s most security-sensitive state that he was a representative of PMO, earning him a security detail, access to sensitive locations, stay at plush hotels, and content for his social media feed.

On February 23, on what officials have now found was his fourth trip to Kashmir, Patel travelled to Doodhpathri in Budgam and created a scene with the local officials of the district, angry that no senior officer had come to receive him. He threatened to transfer government officials, especially the deputy commissioner. The DC in question, SF Hamid, had of course, had no official intimation about the visit of a “VIP”, and sought the verification of his identity.

Whenever any VIP visits any district in Kashmir, officials receive communication four days ahead of the visit. However, there was no such intimation here that developed a sense of suspicion. Once we found out that he was not who he said he was, we were surprised how he got security cover officers never got information about his arrival which developed suspicious among the officers,” a senior officer said adding that everybody is surprised how the con man was provided such heavy security.

On Friday, a day after videos of Patel, who has also claimed that he was appointed “Academic Director (Honorary)” at the Commonwealth Vocational University in the Kingdom of Tonga, the Jammu & Kashmir Police, said that Patel was arrested on March 2. They said that the CID wing of the state police intimated the SSP Srinagar of the presence of an impersonator at the Lalit Hotel. “The particulars of this person were found as Kiran Bhai Patel…who was impersonating himself as Additional Director (strategy and campaigns) PMO, New Delhi. As his replies were found suspicious, he was taken to Nishat police station, where he admitted his crime. Ten fake visiting cards and two mobiles were seized from him,” the police said in a statement on Friday. He has been arrested under sections related to cheating and forgery. The case, police said, is in the initial stage of investigations, adding that he had three previous cases of cheating and forgery in Vadodara, Ahmedabad and Bayad.

Officials investigating the case in said that over his trips to Kashmir, Patel had held several meetings with top bureaucrats, often promising prize postings. In his meetings with political leaders, he told them he had been sent to check the pulse of the political situation “on behalf of PMO”. His Twitter timeline has multiple posts with pictures of Kashmir, some with the hashtag PMO, and others claiming that this was his “place of work”. Among the places he visited with state given security in tow were Kaman Post on the Line of Control, and Lal Chowk in Srinagar, and the spice park in south Kashmir’s Pulwama.

One of the politicians Patel met this year, and was photographed with, was BJP media in-charge Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, who said that he first met Patel nine years ago. “I first met him in 2014 when he had come with some ostensible BJP workers. He recently called me and said he was staying at the Lalit, and wanted my support to organise some events in the state because he was a senior officer in PMO. I did meet him, but developed suspicions and asked him to get an official letter for those events. I told Ashok Kaul about his presence,” Bhat said.

Bhat said that it was his security entourage that lent Patel any semblance of authenticity. “Why were his credentials not checked? It is this security that fooled people in Kashmir. This has to be investigated because he could have been a security risk,” he said.

When contacted, SD Singh, ADGP security, and additional secretary Raj Kumar Goyal did not respond to texts. A senior police officer, however, admitted that the police are investigating how he was given such security paraphernalia, and who was funding his stay at the Lalit in Srinagar.

A resident of Ghodasar in Ahmedabad, with a doctor wife and two daughters, Patel moved to a bungalow in Sindhu Bhavan road around a year ago, senior Gujarat police officials said. All three of the FIRs against him are for cheating, forgery, and criminal intimidation. One FIR that HT has accessed was filed against him and two others by Paritosh Babulal Shah of Jain Decorators & Caterers after Patel organised a garba festival in Vadodara in September 2018, running up an expense of 1.20 crore, but refused to 1 crore of that amount. The FIR registered against Patel, Dipesh and Dhara Sheth alleged that, in April 2019, Patel threatened to kill Shah if he ever demanded the money again.

Another FIR was filed against Patel by a group of farmers in Bayad on August 27,2019 for allegedly enlisting them in a scheme that would ostensibly give them returns for tobacco farming. “Kiran showed them his pictures with top politicians and made them invest crores of rupees in his scheme. When they realised that they were cheated, they came to his office at Ahmedabad’s CG Road to recover their money where they were threatened again,” a senior police officer said. A third FIR, in 2017, was registered against Patel in Naroda in Ahmedabad.

Patel would often network with the senior regional journalists in Gujarat, boasting about his connections both in the state and the Centre. “I met Patel first in 2012-13. He would make very tall claims that were difficult to verify. Recently he had started using the title of Doctor before his name. I had not heard from him for some time, so I recently inquired what he was up to. He left me a message saying he was given some special responsibility by a top politician,” said Dilip Patel, an Ahmedabad-based senior journalist.

Advocate Rihan Gowhar, representing Patel in court, said that the allegations were baseless and subject to a trial. “My client told me that he was accompanied by two more persons and a a political rivalry in Gujarat that has resulted in his arrest. The police remand of my client has already completed and he will be shifted to judicial custody,” he said.

HT also reached out to Malini Patel, Kiran Patel’s wife, who said she did not want to comment, and pointed all questions to their family lawyer, Gujarat-based high court advocate Nishar Vaidhya. “All these allegations are not true. Kiran Patel used to visit Jammu and Kashmir frequently and had good political contacts. A top politician gave Patel his own security cover in Srinagar given the sensitivity of the region. He posted a video on social media which I think has led to all the confusion. Patel had a tiff with people of the Lalit Hotel and when a DSP intervened, she got curious about the security cover. When she asked if it was his security, he denied it, and a complaint was lodged,” Vaidhya said.

Politicians in Kashmir lashed out at the ruling government, and said that the case had raised disturbing questions. National Conference chief spokesperson Tanvir Sadiq said, “While the security of former chief ministers and ministers have been withdrawn or downgraded, here a con man comes all the way from Gujarat and gets security cover without any proper verification. This is not something that can be ignored and is a big security lapse considering his reach while he was in the valley.”

BJP state spokesman Altaf Thakur said, “There should be a clean investigation to know the truth.”

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