KARNATAKA

Stamp paper accused were into real-estate business

BANGALORE Nov.13. Investigation of the stamp paper racket has revealed that some of the accused had made substantial investments in real-estate and transport businesses in several States.

The STAMP Investigation Team (STAMPIT), which is investigating the multi-crore racket, has come across concrete information that Karim Lala, alias Abdul Karim Telgi, the main accused, and others had made huge investments in real estate in Bangalore, Belgaum, and other cities of the State. Since the accused had developed the stamp paper racket into a massive money-spinning venture, they had large sums of money at their disposal. With no taxes to pay and no major expenditure to be incurred, they stashed away a major part of their ill-gotten booty in real estate and also in the transport sector.

The STAMPIT is also investigating whether the accused were involved in the prostitution racket.

The team is examining whether Karim Lala and the other accused were running a hawala racket.

As of now, the stamp paper racket was in operation in large parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu. There are indications that the accused operated in Kerala also. Meanwhile, STAMPIT and police agencies in other States are continuing to seize fake stamp papers.

Abdul Karim Telgi and his henchmen acquired expertise in not only printing fake stamps and stamp papers but also in embossing and franking. Since theirs was a nationwide operation, it is believed that the loss to the national exchequer ran into thousands of crores.

Though Karim Lala has been arrested, there is apprehension that the racket is continuing, albeit on a low key, and that fake stamps and stamp papers are still being sold. This apprehension was vindicated when STAMPIT officials found that Karim Lala was directing the operations from within the confines of the open-air jail at Parapanna Agrahara, where he was housed before being taken to Maharashtra.

The computers seized from Karim Lala in jail and the software are being analysed by experts. Karim Lala, it is said, not only maintained accounts on the computer but also sent instructions through it to associates in Bangalore City and other places. The telephone numbers he called on the cell phones while in jail are also being looked into.

Meanwhile, senior police officers from the southern States held a high-level meeting in Hyderabad to discuss the case. The meeting, headed by the Principal Secretary of Andhra Pradesh, came up with a resolution on dealing with the case and also on the need to make the security codes more foolproof for stamps (judicial and non-judicial stamps, government, and revenue stamps) and stamp papers.

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