How a matriculate exposed the multi-crore stamp paper scam
Jayant Tinaikar exposed Abdul Karim Telgi, the mastermind of India's largest financial scam, of counterfeit stamp papers valued at over ₹30,000 crore.
It was a simple, 30-year-old matriculate, who in 1998 sensed something wrong in the dealings of Abdul Karim Telgi, and exposed the kingpin of one of the largest financial scams in India that spanned over 12 states and was valued at over ₹30,000 crore.
Jayant Tinaikar, now 63, and resident of Khanapur in Belgaum tehsil of Karnataka state, is a whistleblower who helped the police crack the multicrore counterfeit stamp paper scam run by Telgi, who was a jackfruit seller.
Tinaikar shared his “Telgi scam” journey as his book “The Stamp Paper Scam: One Man, 19 Years, and Telgi’s Takedown” will be released in Mumbai on September 30. The scam, named after its mastermind Abdul Karim Telgi, was a massive counterfeit stamp paper racket that shook the Maharashtra financial system back then, prompting the government to take drastic measures. The scam involved the production and distribution of fake stamp papers, depriving the government of massive revenue and wreaking havoc on the authenticity of legal transactions.
Telgi and Tinaikar hail from Khanapur village and knew each other during their childhood days.
After the death of their father Karim Telgi, Abdul Karim Telgi and his brothers — Azim Telgi and Rahim Telgi — started selling fruits and other food products at the Khanapur Railway Station for a living. Later, better jobs made Abdul moved to Mumbai and Arab countries.
In 1988, Tinaikar, who joined his father’s hotel and lodging business in Khanapur before taking up social causes, found that Abdul was purchasing properties in Khanapur at inflated rates.
“In 1994, when I was in Delhi, I read a report in a Rajasthani language newspaper that Telgi was booked in a counterfeit passport case at Churu in Rajasthan. I visited Churu and meet with advocate Sharma to dig out more information. The advocate gave details that the Telgi brothers were involved in counterfeit passport and stamp paper activities,” Tinaikar said.
Tinaikar’s probe revealed that Abdul Telgi was not only involved in counterfeit stamp paper, but his criminal activities covered fake passport and immigration, counterfeit post stamps, money laundering, black marketing of kerosene and printing counterfeit Indian currency notes.
The social activist faced numerous obstacles, including threats to his life and the reluctance of authorities to take his claims seriously.
“I wrote more than 500 complaints to various departments, including the Income Tax, Central Vigilance Commission, Central Board of Direct Taxes, and various police departments. However, many of these letters reached Telgi, and I was approached by his people with threats and warnings to drop my chase,” he said.
Citing an incident, Tinaikar said, “The then income tax officer MK Idnani called me to his Belgaum office on June 3, 1998, and threatened to kill me in the office if I did not stop probing the Telgi case.” Tinaikar said that he rejected ₹60 lakh cash that Telgi offered to drop his tail.
“Telgi offered ₹15 lakh to contractor killers to finish me. In 2002, he attempted to kidnap my daughters, but I did not relent in pursuit,” he said, adding that his sources forewarned him about the killers and helped to fail their plans. “I was alerted by bank officials that Telgi’s mother had withdrawn ₹15 lakh from their branch in Khanapur. I informed the police, and they provided me protection,” he said.
Dattatrya Chavan, a police officer who was part of the investigation team that seized counterfeit stamp papers worth ₹3,000 crore in 2002, said, “Whenever we visited Khanapur to probe the fraud, social worker Tinaikar helped us connect many dots in the case. His leads and information have helped us expose the illegal dealings of Telgi.”
Chavan said that Telgi used to pump money earned from the liquor contract that he obtained for Belgaum district in Karnataka into printing counterfeit stamp papers.
“When Tinaikar alerted us about it, we wrote to the authority concerned and his (Telgi) liquor contract was cancelled,” Chavan said.
R Srikumar, former director general of police (DGP), Karnataka, who led the stamp paper investigation team, mentioned in his letter to inspector general of police, Karnataka state, that, “Tinaikar had been providing information to us regarding fake stamp case. It is also confirmed that based on the information given by him to the then commissioner of police, Abdul Telgi was arrested by the Karnataka police at Ajmer in November 2001.”
According to Srikumar, the information provided by him upon further verification and collection of evidence proved useful to nail many of the culprits related to the case.
In 2001, Tinaikar was providing assistance to newly-appointed Bengaluru police commissioner HT Sangliana. He gave the crucial whereabouts details of Telgi to Sangliana that helped in the arrest of the kingpin from Ajmer in Rajasthan on November 5, 2001.
With the support of social activists and concerned citizens, Tinaikar managed to bring the Telgi scam to public attention.
After the narco test of Telgi, Tinaikar along with his advocate approached a woman officer who was part of the test and received details related to the narco and polygraph test, a report with mention of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Chhagan Bhujbal was later submitted in Pune court.
In 2007, Tinaikar refused ₹2,000 awarded to him by the Karnataka state police for his efforts to dig out the multi-crore scam, citing it was less. On May 28, 2007, Srikumar in his letter to the director general of police wrote, “The ₹2,000 awarded to Tinaikar is not commensurate with the effort put in by him. He deserves a better reward.” Taking cognisance of the letter, police rewarded ₹10 lakh to Tinaikar in December 2008. However, the social activist is yet to be rewarded by income tax and other departments.
Tinaikar’s journey as an anti-scam crusader is an inspiring example of how ordinary citizens can make an extraordinary impact when they stand up against corruption and criminality.
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- Abdul Karim Telgi