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BENGALURU: Son of a railway employee who started off as a vegetable and fruit vendor in trains, Abdul Kareem Telgi took to the murky world and attained notoriety as the kingpin of a multi-crore counterfeit stamp papers scam.
For over a decade, Telgi, who died today following illness while serving his sentence, ran the empire as the mastermind of the counterfeit stamp papers until 2003 when the scam spread across several states broke out and shook the nation.
As the sensational scam unfolded, the security and intelligence agencies had then pegged its size at a mind boggling figure of up to Rs 20,000 crore.
Various estimates are made about the magnitude of the scam, which rocked the financial markets.
Hailing from Khanapur in Belagavi district of Karnataka, 56-year old Telgi began his life as a vegetable and fruit vendor in trains.
After his education in the local Sarvodaya Vidyalaya, an English-medium school, he had obtained a B.Com degree from a college in Belagavi.
Later, he moved to Saudi Arabia and returned seven years later to Mumbai where he allegedly developed links with the underworld.
He was arrested in 1991 by Mumbai police on charges of cheating but reportedly used his stay in the prison to learn the tricks of the trade from an expert forger.
Telgi allegedly bribed his way out of jail.
Acquiring a stamp paper licence in 1994, Telgi opened an office at Mint Road in Mumbai.
He was said to have befriended several officials in the revenue ministry, stamp office and Nashik Security Press where stamp papers are printed. Telgi was also accused of having used his political clout to get the machinery at the Nashik press declared as ‘junk’ only to buy it and setting it up at his office in Mumbai. He also allegedly obtained the original dye for printing in connivance with Nashik press security officials and began printing fake stamp papers.
The investigation agencies discovered that he ran the business like a mega industry by recruiting about 350 agents, who sold the duplicate stamp papers of various denominations in bulk to banks, insurance companies, stock brokerage firms and corporates.
He ran his business allegedly in connivance with top police officers and people in power, according to investigations.
Telgi ran out of luck in 2003 when his multi-billion scam came to the fore.
He had allegedly named many influential people during the narco-analysis test.
In January 2006, Telgi and several associates were sentenced to 30 years rigorous imprisonment by a court.
A report submitted by former DIG (Prisons) D Roopa recently had alleged that Telgi was among several prisoners who received special treatment in the jail.
The facilities included special massages given by three or four convicts allotted to him.
In his first conviction in 2006 under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act and Indian Penal Code 120 (criminal conspiracy), Telgi was sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and for the remaining 20 years in four different cases.