Sucheta Dalal :Stampscam: Telgi disposable -- scamsters protected
Sucheta Dalal

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Stampscam: Telgi disposable -- scamsters protected  

November 24, 2003

" the same set of politicians and officials who connived with Telgi and his bosses would like to suppress any wide-ranging investigation, because it may expose them and close their lucrative source of ill-gotten gains" --this column appeared in the Divvya Bhaskar in Gujarati


Stampscam: Telgi disposable -- scamsters protected


By Sucheta Dalal


Despite 27 cases registered against him, Abdul Karim Telgi’s stamp paper scam at an estimated Rs 20,000 crore is only considered the tip of the iceberg. And each passing day brings more information that seems to expose its enormous network.

The information available to us so far, points to a disquieting conspiracy. 

For starters, there is the fact that the counterfeit stamp racket could never have happened if Telgi hadn’t obtained a license to become a stamp vendor and if he didn’t have help from the India Security Press at Nasik in producing high quality fakes.  Yet, there has been virtually no government action so far to investigate the leakage at the high security Press, barring the finance ministry’s meeting last Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Secondly, the scam investigation has got a completely new twist with the alleged involvement of the Dubai/Pakistan based underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.  A third interesting angle is the fact that Abdul Karim Telgi alleges that the Karnataka police (who predictably deny the charge) have infected him with the HIV virus.

Put all these different facts together and you can make some interesting connections. 

Lets start with Abdul Telgi himself.  So far, one assumed from various police leaks that he was brilliant mind running one of India’s fastest growing illegal businesses and who grew by bribing anyone who stood in his way. We are now being told (through more police leaks) that the story is a little different. Telgi is apparently not the bright spark he was made out to be.  He certainly made a lot of money, but then didn’t a mere inspector amass a mind-boggling Rs 100 crore? So, we learn that Telgi may be just a front for the bigger Don – Dawoodbhai.

As a Mumbai trader says, “its one thing to sell fake stamps and make lots of money, but its requires real brains to earn and redeploy a few thousand crore rupees successfully. As far as Telgi is concerned, we have no knowledge about what he did with the money that he raked in.  We know that he built a big house in place of the shack that was his family home at Khanapur in Belgaum. And we know that he doled out small change to fund weddings and illnesses of friends and neighbours in his village. We also know that he spent substantial chunks in bribing police officials and officers of the India Security Press. But even if we take into account a few hundred crore rupees pocketed by police officials and politicians, it doesn’t explain where the bulk of Telgi’s money went. In fact, even when he chose to invest in films, he picked a dubious, C-grade venture with unknown actors rather than a showpiece production.  It is hardly what a man with vision and wealth would have done. Telgi began his career by selling fake stamps to stockbrokers; there are no reports about his money having found his way to the market either.

If Telgi is indeed just a front for the Dubai don, he can be ingeniously dispensed with and the cops would be just as eager to get rid of him.

Although the police may protest and this conclusion, a reading of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) report by Deputy Inspector General Subodh K.Jaiswal indicates that the police are capable of anything when they are in cahoots with gangsters, scamsters and counterfeiters.

There is another reason to suspect that Telgi may have a boss and he himself may be dispensable. And there is the manner in which officials of the India Security Press at Nasik are being protected. According to Jaiswal’s report Telgi’s ability to produce convincing fake stamps was because officials of the Nasik Press provided him with “appropriate technology including transfer of stamp designs from original negatives/positives”. Further investigations reveal how he accessed the correct security paper and security ink with such ease. As far as we know, the ink is supplied by less than a handful of companies and they control the world market for security ink.

Jaiswal’s report, which confirmed the involvement of officials of the Nasik Press, was submitted a year ago; but the absence of any attempt to tighten security and to sack those responsible, suggests that the police and the government want to keep the source of stamp paper negatives unaffected. Instead of a broad -based investigation to check if there is similar collusion in the currency presses of India as well, we have silence. Yet, it is well known that large quantities of fake Rs 500 notes have been circulating in the country for a long time.

My surmise is that the same set of politicians and officials who connived with Telgi and his bosses would like to suppress any wide-ranging investigation, because it may expose them and close their lucrative source of ill-gotten gains.

Email: [email protected]

-- Sucheta Dalal