Abdul Karim Telgi, 57, mastermind of the fake stamp paper scam which rocked political and police establishments in multiple states — especially Maharashtra and Karnataka — in the early part of the new millennium, died after he suffered a cardiac arrest following multi-organ failure, at a government hospital in Bengaluru on Thursday afternoon.
Last week, Telgi was taken to hospital from the Bengaluru central prison in a serious condition, and was on life support system. He was declared to be critical at the ICU of the superspeciality unit of the government-run Victoria Hospital over the past few days.
Telgi, who was arrested in 2001 by the Bengaluru police for running a nationwide fake stamp paper racket from the early 1990s to divert crores worth of revenue of the state exchequer from sales of stamp paper used for land deals and other agreements to his personal accounts, was serving a life sentence at the Bengaluru jail.
“He was declared dead at 3.55 pm. He suffered a multi-systemic failure. Despite our best efforts, we could not revive him. He suffered a cardiac arrest in the afternoon. We tried to revive him, but could not succeed,’’ said Dr Balaji S Pai, head of the superspeciality unit at the Victoria Hospital. Telgi was suffering from multiple illnesses for over a decade. He was diagnosed as HIV-positive soon after his arrest and was being treated in prison. He also had diabetes and was mostly confined to a wheelchair in prison, where special privileges like an assistant had been accorded to him on account of his medical condition.
In the course of his rise from a lower middle-class family in Khanapur region, on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border, to being the kingpin of the fake stamp paper racket, Telgi lived the high life, splashing his money on bar girls, policemen and politicians. His eventual arrest exposed the rot in the political and police system, which allowed Telgi to have a free run and evade arrest. Investigations in 2001-02 by a special investigation team of the Karnataka Police, headed by the then senior IPS officer R Srikumar and later by the CBI, exposed his links to several politicians, their relatives and dozens of policemen, especially in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
In 2002, the probe team put Telgi under surveillance in prison for over six months for use of cellphones and used phone call intercepts to unearth his nationwide network. Following this, the case was handed over to the CBI.