'Scam 2003: The Telgi Story', Hansal Mehta’s take on stamp paper counterfeiter Abdul Karim Telgi, looks at the illegality of the means to achieve success and is also an indictment of the systemic rot that breeds corruption, says the filmmaker. The film, directed by Tushar Hiranandani and based on Sanjay Singh's book 'Reporter Ki Diary', tells the story of how Telgi ran a multi-crore scam by printing counterfeit stamps and stamp papers through a syndicate.
The scam came to light in mid-2002. Telgi was later convicted and sentenced to multiple years in jail. He died in 2017.
Who is Abdul Karim Telgi and what is the story about?
The Stamp Paper Scam, also known as the Telgi Scam, was a financial scandal that started in 1992 and came to light during 2002-2003. Telgi was a mastermind behind one of the country's most infamous counterfeiting scandals that spanned several states in India and was valued at over Rs 30,000 crore. It led to the conviction of Abdul Karim Telgi, the mastermind behind the scam.
Abdul Karim Telgi, born in Karnataka, on July 29, 1961, supported his own education by selling fruits and vegetables on trains and eventually moved to Saudi Arabia. His father, an Indian Railways employee, passed away when Telgi was young. Seven years later, he returned to India, with a new career path in mind 'counterfeiting'. He created fake passports and documents to export labour from India to Saudi Arabia through his company, Arabian Metro Travels. Then moved on to counterfeiting stamp papers.
Growing further, Telgi moved to more complex counterfeiting when he began to counterfeit stamp paper. He recruited 300 agents to sell the fake to financial institutions like banks, insurance companies, and stock brokerage firms. The scale of this operation was staggering, estimated to be around Rs 30,000 crore.
On 17 January 2006, Telgi and several associates were sentenced to 30 years of rigorous imprisonment. Later, in 2007, Telgi was given an additional 13 years sentence. Reportedly, he was also asked to pay a fine of Rs 202 crore. The Income Tax Department requested that Telgi's property be confiscated to pay the fine.
According to 'The Financial Times' in 2003, at least 12 cases relating to these stamps were registered against Telgi in Maharashtra and an additional 15 cases from other states between 1992 and 2002.
About Scam 2003: The Telgi Story
Talking about 'Scam 2003', Hansal Mehta told PTI, "It is a recognition of hustle and at the same time, it is the indictment of the means you apply to achieve an absolutely disproportionate kind of success. While 'Scam' is a celebration of hustle, it is an indictment of illegality, of the systemic rot that forces you to play with the system and forces you to breed corruption."
The director says he has been hustling for the last 30 years as a storyteller. "We live in a time where people who don't have the opportunity to shine, need to hustle to find that opportunity. I have done that since 'Khana Khazana' days. (It's been) 30 years of hustling. But my hustle has been different from Mr Telgi. I would like to believe that I haven't scammed my way into where I am," he said.
The series is produced by Applause Entertainment in association with Sony's Studio Next. It is written by Marathi writers Kiran Yadnyopavit and Karan Vyas.