Duper, fleecer, jailbird | On the trail of a high-profile ‘conman’

Sukesh Chandrasekhar has allegedly impersonated government officers, judges and businessmen to extort money from people, many of whom have cases of fraud and corruption against them. Devesh K. Pandey and S. Vijay Kumar report on the high-profile ‘conman’ who has kept investigators on their toes

September 04, 2021 02:05 am | Updated November 22, 2021 09:38 pm IST

The Enforcement Directorate has searched multiple locations linked to Sukesh Chandrasekhar including a ‘benami’ bungalow at Kanathur, Chennai, along the East Coast Road.

The Enforcement Directorate has searched multiple locations linked to Sukesh Chandrasekhar including a ‘benami’ bungalow at Kanathur, Chennai, along the East Coast Road.

Sukesh Chandrasekhar , 32, sits cooling his heels in the custody of the Delhi Police. He faces the charge of running a well-oiled extortion racket, not from a swanky bungalow but from the premises of Rohini Jail where he has been lodged for the last one year.

Also read: Delhi Police arrest actor Leena Paul in ₹200 crore extortion case

Four years ago, Chandrasekhar was arrested by the Delhi Police for allegedly striking a deal with a faction of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), led by V.K. Sasikala and T.T.V. Dhinakaran , by assuring them that they would get the ‘two leaves’ AIADMK symbol ahead of the keenly contested RK Nagar by-polls in Chennai. Chandrasekhar, investigators say, had promised them that he would bribe officials in the Election Commission of India to get the job done.


Three months ago, the Enforcement Directorate stumbled upon some WhatsApp chats which indicated that someone was involved in money laundering operations. In due course, it turned out it was no small sum — nearly ₹200 crore had changed hands and had reached the prime suspect. Realising that something was amiss, the investigators meticulously worked on the case. Finally, the agency’s cyber experts achieved a breakthrough and managed to find out the phone’s location by tracking down its Internet Protocol address prints.

Meanwhile, based on complaints from various people, who said that they had received calls from government functionaries promising them help in exchange for a hefty sum, the investigators also scrutinised the outgoing call records from the landlines of these functionaries. The outgoing call records showed that no calls had been made to the complainants, which meant that the numbers had been spoofed. Spoofing is a process which involves the masking of the number of the caller’s phone with a number of his choice, to cheat people.

The investigators say there were left stunned with their findings. The calls were made from Rohini Jail and the man making the calls was none other than Chandrasekhar.


Bits of a puzzle

Going by the charges against him, Chandrasekhar played many roles to run his extortion business — sometimes a government officer, at other times a businessman and, pushing the envelope more, even a politician’s grandson. His victims were carefully chosen. They were businessmen, senior politicians and film personalities, many of whom were entangled in cases of large-scale cheating, fraud and corruption. Chandrasekhar, smooth-talking and persuasive, who knew the art of deception well, would promise to provide a solution to their problems for a price.

During the investigation, the police later identified two jail staff — an Assistant Jail Superintendent and a Deputy Superintendent — who admitted to the police that they had assisted Chandrasekhar. With admissions tumbling out, two dozen jail officials have now been transferred.

Also read | Enforcement Directorate raids premises of ‘conman’ Sukesh, others

Simultaneously, the Enforcement Directorate is conducting a money-laundering probe to identify all the assets generated through the proceeds of alleged crimes currently under investigation.

The scale of extortion is yet to be established. The probe agencies are looking into all the instances where those facing legal cases had received calls offering a way out in exchange for huge sums of cash. The source of these calls remained elusive for long as those conned did not dare open their mouths. Some cases of impersonation were earlier lodged with various police departments across the country, but they were pursued separately.

The probe officers concluded that the calls were being made through a number-spoofing App to camouflage the real phone ID. First developed in 2004 in the United States, this technology is often employed to deceive the receiver into believing that the call has originated from some other phone line.


The officials shared this information with the police, which launched its own investigation. The Special Cell of the Delhi Police got its first breakthrough when it received a complaint from Aditi Singh, the wife of former Fortis promoter Shivinder Singh, who was arrested along with his brother Malvinder Singh by Delhi’s Economic Offences Wing in a case in 2019.

Aditi Singh alleged that she had been duped by a person who had first called her in June 2020. Posing as a senior Law Ministry official, this person, she said, offered to help her husband get some relief. It is alleged that Malvinder Singh’s wife too was made a similar offer. Based on the complaint, last month a trap was laid for the conduits who were to receive more cash from the complainant. What ensued was a dramatic chase by multiple teams. Pradeep Ramdanee and Deepak Ramnani, small-time operators, were detained. They claimed that they had been collecting money at the behest of Chandrasekhar, lodged in Rohini Jail. Investigators allege that ₹200 crore changed hands through several middlemen.

Next there were searches inside the jail premises. The police found two mobile phones and sent them for forensic examination. Investigators say Chandrasekhar had been leading a comfortable life in prison. The detection, coupled with other irregularities, prompted jail authorities to examine the rotten apples in their midst and fix responsibility of those involved in arranging the devices for the accused.

Also read | Supreme Court grants two-week interim bail to alleged middleman in EC bribery case

The Economic Offences Wing subsequently registered another case and arrested three more persons — the bank manager of RBL, Komal Poddar, and his two associates — Avinash Kumar and Jitender Narula — apart from Chandrasekhar. The role of ‘hawala’ operators in the transfer of funds also came to the fore.

A lavish lifestyle

The Enforcement Directorate also initiated a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, on the basis of the police case and searched multiple locations linked to Chandrasekhar, his associates, and wife Leena Maria Paul, an actress in the Malayalam film industry, who had starred in the critically acclaimed film Madras Café . The agency also identified a ‘benami’ sea-facing bungalow in Chennai. When the Enforcement Directorate sleuths reached the spot, they found a fleet of luxury vehicles of top brands like Rolls-Royce Ghost, Bentley Bentayga, Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Urus, Escalade and Mercedes-AMG 63 parked there.

The search team entered the building, which was being maintained by caretakers. In the words of an official, the bungalow revealed the extravagant lifestyle of its residents. He described sleek Italian marble floors, Versace rugs, expensive furniture, chandeliers, gym equipment, a home theatre and gold-plated items. On the second floor was a spacious bar. They also found a large number of shoes, bags and branded clothes bearing labels such as Ferragamo, Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton. The initial search resulted in the seizure of 16 high-end vehicles, including a luxury bus, apart from the bungalow. Going through past reports, investigators found that Chandrasekhar had a penchant for high-end vehicles since his school days. In Bengaluru, he would roam around in cars fitted with a red beacon and often dropped names to get his job done.


The agency has tracked down seven more vehicles that were parked at other places. The seized vehicles bore registration plates of different States. Their details will be gathered by the agency from the transport authorities.

While the current value of the seized assets is being assessed, the Enforcement Directorate is also looking into the revenue records of the bungalow to determine its ownership history.

Daredevilry with no limits

Chandrasekhar, a school dropout, hails from Bengaluru, Karnataka. His father, who passed away last year, worked as a part-time mechanic and rubber contractor. Chandrasekhar flirted with the law when he turned 17. He posed as the son of a former Chief Minister of Karnataka and allegedly duped an old man of ₹1 crore.

Elated with that success and many subsequent ones, he slowly transitioned into a high-profile ‘conman’. If he donned the role of a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer in one case, he would impersonate the grandson of a Chief Minister in another. Not only was Chandrasekhar audacious, he also possessed skills that helped him. He spoke multiple languages and soon acquired expertise in spoofing. This was crucial to his operations. His daredevilry knew no limits: he would spoof offices of Central law enforcement agencies headquartered in Delhi and senior officers in ministries, the police say.

While the accused remained the mastermind, his associates arranged logistics for him. They would create the network for him to make calls and fix deals, say investigators. His associates would often pose as officials from investigating agencies and offer to help those facing legal action. Sometimes, they would demand that the victims pay up for not getting arrested. When the deals were struck, the call to finalise the arrangement would come from Chandrasekhar, the ‘officer’ heading the probe or helming the agency. The number displayed would ostensibly be of the real office or officer as reflected in Truecaller or other modes of verification.

The cycle of arrests and bail

After he was arrested for the first time in 2007 and subsequently granted bail, it is suspected that Chandrasekhar shifted base from Bengaluru to Chennai. It was sometime in 2009-10 that he contacted Leena via Facebook, identifying himself as Balaji, a man with deep pockets, from the Tamil film industry. He said he could get her acting assignments. Born and brought up in Dubai, Leena had come to Bengaluru to pursue a dental science course. She also aspired to become a film actress. Leena was to discover his real identity much later.

Sukesh Chandrasekhar in 2017.

Sukesh Chandrasekhar in 2017.


Chandrasekhar was again arrested in 2009. He came out on bail, but was arrested yet again in 2011. He came out on bail that time too. In May 2013, a joint team of the Delhi and Chennai Police arrested Leena from a farmhouse in South Delhi for allegedly cheating the Canara Bank of ₹19 crore. Chandrasekhar managed to escape, but was nabbed weeks later in Kolkata. Based on that case, the Enforcement Directorate had attached 20 bank accounts with a cumulative balance of over ₹13 crore, cars worth ₹7 crore, 80 watches and jewellery.

After Chandrasekhar’s arrest in the Dhinakaran case in 2017, the police seized ₹1.30 crore in cash. They also seized a fake card showing him as a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, an Indian Youth Congress identity card, and a Mercedes car bearing a sticker of Member of Parliament. He had used all these to trap his victims.

“It is the immense belief that one can wriggle out of even the worst possible situations that drives a conman to go to any length. Given the nature of allegations, it also holds true for Chandrasekhar. He is said to be a master at mimicking anyone’s voice. He also understands mobile technology well,” says an investigating officer. The officer says there are dozens of cases against him in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Delhi.

Facing multiple charges

The frequency with which Chandrasekhar allegedly indulged in cheating and fraud was reflected in the submissions made by a public prosecutor before a Delhi lower court in May 2019, while opposing his bail application. It was submitted that three new First Information Reports had been instituted against him while he was in his custody in the Dhinakaran case. In one case, he allegedly used the phone of a constable to influence a judge in order to get out on bail by impersonating a Supreme Court judge. In another, he allegedly posed as the private secretary to the Union Law Minister and contacted an Additional District Judge in Mumbai to seek favour in a case. In the third, he was accused of bribing and managing the police escorting staff while he was taken to Bengaluru, Coimbatore and Mumbai, before being produced in front of the courts.

The Enforcement Directorate is also verifying whether a former Rajya Sabha MP and another high-profile accused arrested by the agency in separate cases were also cheated of ₹25 crore and ₹11 crore by Chandrasekhar while he was in Rohini Jail. Chandrasekhar also faces the allegation of cheating about 500 people in Mumbai through a Ponzi scam. He was arrested in the case, along with Leena, in 2015. On the pretext of ill-health, he later got himself admitted to a hospital from where he allegedly attempted to stop a property auction by making a phone call posing as a government official. The Mumbai Police again arrested him in May 2016.

Chandrasekhar’s role again came up in a case registered by the Hyderabad wing of the CBI on January 16, 2020. Former Telugu Desam Party MP Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, director and promoter of Transtroy (India) Limited, who was earlier booked by the CBI in a bank fraud case involving ₹7,926 crore, alleged that he had received calls from a person claiming to be a senior CBI official. He was threatened with dire consequences if he did not pay up. The man demanded ₹100 crore to bail him out of the case. However, the former MP sensed foul play and lodged a complaint with the CBI. According to the FIR, on January 3, 2020, a landline installed at the CBI head office in Delhi was spoofed by the imposters and multiple calls were made to Rao on his mobile phones. Two accused — Manivardhan Reddy Yala and Ramaraj — were initially named in the case for collecting money from different people in the name of senior Central government functionaries by promising favourable actions, the FIR said.

All the cases instituted against Chandrasekhar are either under investigation or pending trial. While the police are trying to identify his other associates, the Enforcement Directorate is examining various persons linked to the case. The witness statement of Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez, who was also reportedly contacted by him from inside prison, was recently recorded by the agency. As people spoke up, the investigators were able to piece together an extraordinary story of extortion.

In the Dhinakaran case, Chandrasekhar has pleaded not guilty of any of the allegations made by the police, which filed a charge sheet before the trial court on July 14, 2017. In November 2018, the court ordered the framing of charges against him and others under the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Further proceedings are under way.

Following his arrest in 2017, the accused has spent most of his time in Tihar Jail and later Rohini Jail. Chandrasekhar has a battery of high-profile lawyers arguing his case. With court permission, he has come out on bail or parole a couple of times. In June this year, the Delhi High Court granted two weeks of interim custody bail on the ground that his mother was seriously ill and required hospitalisation and surgery in Chennai. The bail was then extended till July 2.

In November last year, the Supreme Court granted him interim bail for two weeks so that he could attend the last rites of his father. The court also directed that Chandrasekhar be escorted by a cop, the expenses for which were to be borne by him. He was earlier allowed to meet his father, who had then been suffering from leukaemia. During that period, he contracted COVID-19 and the bail duration was extended. On being discharged from a Chennai hospital, he was back in Rohini Jail. He is also apparently back in business.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.