On July 11, 2018, a Mercedes Benz drew up outside a home in Malviya Nagar, Jaipur. Security guards emerged first, took a look around, and opened the door for Ganesh Ingole, 41, a sharply dressed director of a “nuclear waste and decommissioning company”.
Next, a Honda City pulled up. It had Satyanarayan, 41, and “officials from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)”, including one
“Mr Jindal”. They alighted with bags containing “anti-radiation suits and chemicals”.
A third vehicle, an Innova, arrived with officials from the “Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)”, carrying more chemicals.
Soon, the house was crowded. Inside was Satyanarayan “the seller”; two friends from Pune in their mid-30s, one the owner of a diamond business and the other of a restaurant; and Ingole, the director of “Rencel Energy and Metal Limited”. Mr Jindal and the other “scientists” changed into “anti-radiation suits”, drank water — there were 50 water bottles around, as “precaution” — and proceeded to the first floor. There, inside a black bag, awaited an isotope in the shape of a doll “with a radiation range of 58 inches”. The substance, made of copper and other metals, was sealed with chemicals inside a heavy, transparent box with rice sticking to it, apparently as proof of its “authenticity”. The friends had been told the doll dated back to the time of the East India Company, had been packed by former president A P J Abdul Kalam himself in 2014, and was worth Rs 7,000 crore per inch of radiation range in the international market.
Satyanarayan was to sell the doll to the two friends for Rs 500 crore per inch, and they would in turn sell it for Rs 7,000 crore per inch to Rencel, which would then auction it in the international market. The scientists were there to “carefully unpack the doll”, and “test its radiation range”, as it had been in packing since long.
Why that price? The isotope had applications in study of antimatter, the friends were told. They were also told that Satyanarayan couldn’t deal with Rencel directly because he didn’t have the resources and because the law prohibits a “single private citizen” from obtaining chemicals needed to open and test a radioactive substance, mainly for security reasons; a “mediator” is necessary so that one side gets BARC officials with their set of chemicals, and another DRDO officials with their chemicals.
On the ground floor, there was talk of history in the making as this was “the biggest deal of India”.
Within half an hour, there was a blast.
It was in May 2018 that the two friends, along with a third, first heard about the “radioactive dancing doll”, from a frequent customer at the Pune restaurant owned by one of them. They say they looked up antimatter online, and the claims appeared to check out.
Satyanarayan’s “associate” Dinesh Arya suggested they talk to Rencel. Soon, Amit Gupta, Rencel’s “Relationship Manager”, met the three friends at Delhi airport, while “on his way to Paris for a conference on nuclear energy”, and showed them documents certifying Rencel as part of several nuclear associations. Amit told them it was “a deal for the sake of the country”, since the Indian government would earn crores in taxes and royalties from it.
After meeting Ingole next at a 10,000 sq ft office in Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, the friends were convinced; one of them could tell a diamond’s worth after all.
An MoU for Rs 5 lakh was signed with Satyanarayan and for Rs 65 lakh with Rencel. Satyanarayan was to coordinate with the DRDO, which would open the radioactive package, and Rencel would check its range. It all led to July 11, 2018, the day of the blast.
The blast scared everyone. Within seconds, Jindal announced testing could not be done in Jaipur. “We have to take the doll to our Hyderabad lab.”
The friends say Satyanarayan fell at Jindal’s feet, crying that he had spent around Rs 85 lakh to arrange for the DRDO team. So Ingole said they could give it another shot, “armed with a chemical composition that could stay stable only for 24 hours”. This was followed by a blast too, and a few scientists “collapsed”. Several litres of water had to be poured on them to bring them back.
Jindal repeated the doll could be opened only via robotics at the Hyderabad lab — it had been packed by India’s rocket man, no less — and “any further efforts here could endanger the city of Jaipur”. Also, the doll needed to be “retreated” at the Hyderabad lab.
By July 2018 end, Jindal was in Jaipur with a machine, “imported from Israel”, to test the doll’s range. There was good news: the range had increased, “from 58 to 68+” inches.
Eventually, the doll was sent to Hyderabad. Soon, Rencel’s Rakesh Goyal informed the friends that the testing at the DRDO had been successful and the range had increased even further, to “73.2 inches”.
So far, the three friends had spent around Rs 70 lakh and, for the latest procedure, gave Rs 81 lakh to Rencel, Rs 98 lakh to “DRDO” as re-testing charge, Rs 1.5 crore to “DRDO” for retreatment, and Rs 29 lakh for extra packing — 27, instead of 19, layers, due to “the increased radiation range”.
Waiting for the packaging “to dry”, over the next one month, the friends say they grew close to Satyanarayan. He took them to his office and showed them paintings such as a “self-portrait of Amrita Sher-Gil”, “works by Paul Gauguin, F N Souza, S H Raza, M F Husain”, and “a self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci”, and suggested they could work together in the business of paintings too.
As the date of delivery drew closer, Rencel told the friends they needed some chemicals from Germany, which were getting late. With the “DRDO testing” delayed due to this, the friends paid up Rs 68 lakh for a chemical composition, “stable only for 24 hours”, that Jindal said he had already created.
Finally, the doll was brought in the first week of October to Jaipur in “a controlled temperature van”.
It was kept in a home in the slum behind Hotel Trident in Jaipur, with its package covered in dung cake to “lock its smell”. Still, says the diamond businessman, “The smell was so pungent we could not enter the room.” They were assured that the smell was due to the packing being “only 93% dry”.
The day of the testing, Satyanarayan reportedly called up the friends to say “movement had disturbed the layers of the doll”, and it would have to be sent to Hyderabad again.
The friends paid up again, after Satyanarayan first offered to do it but then backed out saying a deal for an Amrita Sher-Gil portrait had “fallen through”. The friends say they had already given Rs 29 lakh to Satyanarayan for personal requirements, etc, and at this stage paid Rencel and “DRDO” about Rs 91 lakh and Rs 45 lakh each.
The wait for the doll seemed endless.
Towards the end of October 2018, the friends happened to pass by Satyanarayan’s office in Malviya Nagar, Jaipur. Curious to see it still open at 6:30 pm, they walked in and saw some “Ayurvedic medicines” being packed by some of the office staff, and next to them a familiar black bag. It suddenly struck the diamond businessman where he had seen the bag before. He opened it and says out came the doll, looking exactly the same.
“We soon joined the dots. It was a scam; every person we had met had been playing their role,” says the restaurant owner.
By then they had invested around Rs 8 crore for the doll, of which about 60% they had borrowed.
For the next three months, even as Satyanarayan kept putting off the delivery — citing “the DRDO’s BrahMos leak” in October, Rajasthan elections in November, and Christmas holidays in December — the friends went about collecting evidence. They started recording calls and videos, claiming they needed to share the same with their lenders.
In February, the friends approached Jaipur Police Commissioner Anand Srivastava. On March 7, as a meeting was being held by them and the others in a hotel on Tonk Road, police stormed in.
The next day, Rakesh Goyal was arrested from Jaipur, Dinesh Arya from Indore, and Ingole from Mumbai. In all, 18 persons, including Amit Gupta and Satyanarayan, were arrested, and charged with cheating, forgery, criminal intimidation, and criminal conspiracy.
Some, such as Jindal, whose real name is not yet known, remain absconding. There is a Jindal though on the DRDO website, something probably the accused had checked beforehand.
Soon, more alleged victims tumbled out, and they continue to contact the Jaipur police, from Indore and Bhopal to Hyderabad and Kolkata. So far, seven FIRs have been lodged, 24 persons arrested, and over a 100 bank accounts frozen.
The friends say they wonder why they got taken in so easily. “While for the educated their scam was radioactive isotope/dancing doll, to the uneducated, they marketed a ‘rice puller’, which could attract rice grains. When we read up, we found it is pretty common,” says the restaurant owner.
In fact, the ‘rice puller’ scam, on for a couple of years, has seen so many cases that even the RBI had cautioned about it in July last year, saying people perpetrating it were misrepresenting notifications issued by it.
Jaipur Additional Commissioner of Police Prasanna Kumar Khamesra says the accused also claimed to have a “magical mirror” to reflect one’s skeleton, a “Sulaimani Mala” to turn one into a superhuman, and magical glasses to see through a person’s clothes. Some women have approached police stating one of the accused had sexually abused them, claiming to be a tantric. But police are yet to file an FIR in this regard.
Police officials believe the kingpin was Ingole, who claimed to have companies ranging from ‘Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’ to ‘Barclay Metal World (BMW)’.
The Sunday Express’s efforts to talk to their lawyers proved unfruitful.