The Telgi Scam 2003: Who is Abdul Karim Telgi?

4 Sep 2023  Read 27806 Views

Telgi, is a name synonym with Scam and Notoriety. He was known as the “Kingpin of Stamp Paper Scam”. Abdul Karim Telgi was the mastermind behind the The Stamp Paper Scam, which still remains a haunting chapter in India's financial history. But how did a fruit vendor manage to pull off one of India's most audacious financial scams?

In this blog we will understand the shocking rise of Telgi, the far-reaching impact of the scam on the Indian economy, and the tragic end of the Rags to Riches story of Abdul Karim Telgi. Let’s get started.

Who is Abdul Karim Telgi ?

  • Abdul Karim Telgi, hailing from the small town of Khanapur in Karnataka, had humble beginnings and big aspirations. After the untimely demise of his father, Telgi took up odd jobs, including selling eatables on trains. 

  • His life took an unexpected turn when he ventured to Saudi Arabia, and that’s where the first seeds of crime were sowed.

  • Telgi started a travel agency “Arabian Metro Travels”, where he would send people to gulf for better job prospects and lucrative offers using fake passports. 

  • This resulted in the creation of a huge racket in Mumbai and Telgi was jailed for a brief period of time in 1993, announcing his arrival to the crime world.

  • Telgi found his partner in crime Soni who was jailed for forging of share certificates in the jail itself, and the mastermind was flooded with the ideas of pulling one of the greatest scams of India as Soni got him interested in stock markets. This was during Harshad Mehta’s Scam.

Read our blog on Harshad Mehta Scam and how he made millions out of Stock Market Scam

  • Soon, Telgi  shifted his focus to counterfeit stamp papers and Gum Washing was the first the duo started, setting in motion one of the most audacious scams in Indian history.

The Anatomy of the Scam 2003

  • The Telgi Stamp Scam capitalised on a shortage of stamps and stamp papers, essential for various legal documents and transactions. Through his acumen , Telgi realised the loopholes in the stamp paper machinery of the nation. 

  • Telgi with aid from certain officials of the Indian Security Press at Nashik, Maharashtra, and influential politicians managed to get a “Stamp Vendor License” in March 1994.

  • The scarcity of Non Judicial and Special Adhesive Stamps created the perfect market for his fake stamp papers, which were sold for sums ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 100.

  • As the scam unfolded, it became evident that Telgi's ill-gotten wealth was staggering.

  • Despite declaring minimal income between 1996 and 2003 on his tax returns, a tax tribunal in Bengaluru in 2010 unearthed a colossal sum amassed from the counterfeit stamp paper racket. 

  • For the assessment year 1996-97 alone, Telgi's unaccounted income was estimated at Rs 2.29 crore out of a total of Rs 4.54 crore.

How Telgi got caught?

  • The path to Telgi's capture was filled with challenges. Initial cases of fake stamp papers were registered as far back as 1991 and 1995, but investigations were lackluster, allowing Telgi to slip through the cracks. 

  • It is believed that the charming and flamboyant traits of Telgi were the reason for his rise and fall. His lavish lifestyle attracted the officials and thus, was closely monitored.

  • R. Sri Kumar (Chief of Stamp Paper Investigation Team) began the end of Telgi by arresting his aid Soni.

  • In 2002 , Sub-inspector Ramakant Kale of Pune City Police received a vital tip-off from his son, Constable Ajit Kale, which led to the arrest of individuals involved in selling fake stamp papers in Pune.

  • The Maharashtra government, under mounting public pressure, formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) that marked the end of Telgi's run. 

  • A separate Karnataka Police SIT, known as STAMPIT, further unveiled the extent of Telgi's web of corruption, implicating government officials, police officers, and politicians in his illicit activities.

Culture of Corruption

  • The extent of Telgi's influence became apparent when, in 2003, IPS officer Sri Kumar and Subodh Jaiswal discovered policemen partying with Telgi in his Colaba residence.

  • Although an Assistant Police Inspector was verbally suspended by the then Commissioner of Mumbai Police, R S Sharma, no further action was taken. 

  • The involvement of top police officials and politicians remained shrouded in secrecy.

  • Responding to an activist's petition, the Bombay High Court appointed S S Puri, a retired Additional Director General of Police, to supervise the probe. 

  • The SIT's relentless efforts led to a significant breakthrough in 2003, with the arrest of Anil Gote, a Samajwadi Janata Party legislator from Dhule, and Commissioner Sharma himself in December of the same year. It is said these were the people who aided Telgi in the grant of a “Vendor License”

  • In 2004, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took over the investigations, filing a comprehensive chargesheet against Telgi in August. Throughout the proceedings, Telgi pleaded guilty to all charges brought against him, highlighting the failure of the system to reform him.

Repercussions of the Scam on the Economy

The Telgi Stamp Paper Scam left a profound impact on the Indian economy, with repercussions that continue to be felt today:

  1. The scam resulted in a substantial loss of government income, estimated at over ₹30,000 crore. And this is just an estimated figure, actual numbers are believed to be far greater. As stamp papers are crucial for official documents like mortgage deals and contracts, the incident undermined people's faith in the authenticity of these transactions. Many began questioning the validity of their agreements.

  2. Some banks relied on stamp papers to validate documents for loans and financial transactions. With counterfeit papers in circulation, the legal validity of these documents became uncertain, creating complications for the banking sector.

  3. In response to the scam, the government overhauled the stamp paper production and distribution process. This led to the introduction of e-stamping in several states in 2005, aiming to bring transparency and accountability to the system.

  4. Large-scale scams like this one can make foreign investors cautious. Concerns about the country's regulatory environment and institutional oversight of financial activities can discourage foreign direct investment.

  5. The scam exposed the involvement or negligence of certain government officials, prompting increased scrutiny and restructuring within administrative ranks to prevent future fraud.

A Tragic End

  • Abdul Karim Telgi's story took a dark turn when, while in police custody, he was afflicted with AIDS.

  •  In 2017, he succumbed to multi-organ failure in a Mumbai hospital, closing a chapter on one of the most infamous scams in Indian history.


The Telgi Stamp Scam of 2003 remains an important reminder of the loopholes in the system that allow a cunning conman to exploit the vulnerabilities of India's bureaucracy and legal system. It exposed a deep-seated culture of corruption and collusion that tainted the names of officials and politicians at the highest levels. Telgi's rise and fall serve as a cautionary tale, underscoring the need for continuous vigilance and reform within the Indian administrative machinery.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. What is the Telgi Stamp Paper Scam?

The Telgi Stamp Paper Scam, also known as the Abdul Karim Telgi Scam, was a large-scale financial fraud in India involving the counterfeiting of stamp papers. Abdul Karim Telgi, the mastermind behind the scam, produced fake stamp papers and sold them across the country, leading to significant financial losses and widespread legal implications.

  1. Who was Abdul Karim Telgi?

Abdul Karim Telgi was the central figure behind the Telgi Stamp Paper Scam. He started as a fruit vendor and later became involved in various criminal activities, including forging passports and, ultimately, producing counterfeit stamp papers. His criminal activities made him one of India's most notorious criminals.

  1. How did Telgi manage to execute the scam?

Telgi identified loopholes in the stamp paper production and distribution system in India. With the help of officials from the Indian Security Press and influential politicians, he obtained a "Stamp Vendor License." This allowed him to produce fake stamp papers that looked genuine. The scarcity of legitimate stamps contributed to the success of his counterfeit operation.

  1. What were the repercussions of the Telgi Stamp Paper Scam on the Indian economy?

The scam had significant economic consequences, resulting in a loss of government revenue estimated at over ₹30,000 crore. It also eroded trust in legal documents that required stamp papers, causing uncertainty in property deals and contracts. Some banks faced challenges in validating loan and financial transaction documents due to counterfeit stamp papers.

  1. How big was the Telgi Stamp Paper Scam in terms of financial magnitude?

The Telgi Stamp Paper Scam was estimated to be worth over ₹30,000 crore, making it one of the largest financial scams in India's history. However, the actual extent of the scam's financial impact may have been even greater than this estimated figure.

About the Author: Devansh Dixit | 32 Post(s)

Devansh is a 4th-year law student from Amity Law School Noida (Uttar Pradesh), currently interning at Finology Legal. He is specialising in business and commercial laws. 

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