The life and times of Abdul Karim Telgi

Counterfeiter had contacts within the government security press

Updated - October 27, 2017 03:54 pm IST

Published - October 26, 2017 09:59 pm IST - Mumbai

BANGALORE, 25/08/2009: Fake Stamp Paper scam accused, Abdul Karim Telgi is being brought to High Court of Karnataka, in Bangalore.
Photo: K. Gopinathan

BANGALORE, 25/08/2009: Fake Stamp Paper scam accused, Abdul Karim Telgi is being brought to High Court of Karnataka, in Bangalore. Photo: K. Gopinathan

A native of Khanapur near Belagavi in Karnataka, Abdul Karim Telgi ’s parents were working with the Indian Railways. He started working at a young age after he lost his father.

He began by selling fruits at the Khanapur station to support his family and raise money for his education. After completing B.Com from a college in Belagavi, he moved to Saudi Arabia and seven years later came to Mumbai to work as a travel agent and stayed in a guest house in Colaba.

He started forging stamp papers, which are needed for a host of legal purposes in the early 80s and initially sold them to interested parties for as less as ₹100 a stamp paper. Investigation into his racket later indicated that he was acting in connivance with some employees of the Indian Security Press in Nashik, which prints stamp papers. As per the practice at that time, old machines used in the press were auctioned off, and these were bought by Telgi. He also procured plates used in the press from his contacts inside.

Illegal but genuine

“The result was that the stamp papers printed by Telgi were real in spite of not being real. They were genuine stamp papers but produced in an illegal manner,” said a senior police officer requesting anonymity.

Telgi went on to build a network of over 300 agents who would approach various institutions that needed stamp papers on a regular basis and strike deals with them as long as they were willing to pay the price. The net worth of Telgi's racket is estimated to be around ₹2,000 crore.

While the Mumbai Police registered a couple of cases against Telgi in the early 90s, he was released after being questioned.

The lid was blown off the racket in 2000 when two of Telgi's couriers were caught transporting his stamp papers in Karnataka. 

Their interrogation led the police to Telgi, who was arrested from Ajmer in 2001. It is estimated that fake stamp papers were sold across seven States as part of the scam.

Special investigation team formed

The Mumbai Police Crime Branch obtained Telgi's custody in 2002 and a year later, the Maharashtra government formed a special investigation team, headed by then Deputy Inspector General of Police Subodh Jaiswal, to probe the cases against him. 

The next twist in the tale came in 2003, when during a surprise visit to Telgi's flat in Colaba, Mr. Jaiswal found him sharing a meal with Mumbai Police personnel. The Crime Branch had taken him out of lock up claiming that they were taking him to search his residence. Assistant Police Inspector Deepak Kamat was arrested for conniving with Telgi in exchange for money but was acquitted in 2016. 

Telgi was convicted in 2007 after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 29 years in prison, along with a whopping ₹202 crore fine.

However, Telgi was not done with subverting the system. In 2016, Karnataka DIG (Prisons) D. Roopa said in an official report that the master counterfeiter was getting preferential treatment in the Parappana Agrahara central jail in Bengaluru. 

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