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Stamp kingpin’s covert cassettes tick on Mumbai’s mighty

Mumbai, Nov. 10: Tapes possibly holding the fates of many top police officers of Maharashtra and Karnataka, and even politicians, are about to come to light in the Rs 3,000-crore stamp paper scam.

Karnataka police today handed over to Mumbai investigators probing the scam, in which the market was flooded with fake stamp paper, 56 audio tapes allegedly containing conversations between the main accused, Abdul Karim Telgi, and police officers as well as politicians.

Unknown to police officers who were pestering him for money, Telgi had recorded these conversations while lodged in a Bangalore jail, where because of his contacts little was inaccessible to him. He has been in jail for over two years now.

Investigations have already resulted in the arrest of Sreedhar Vagal, an IPS officer of the rank of additional commissioner (intelligence), and Mumbai police commissioner R.S. Sharma has been questioned over two days.

An Andhra Pradesh MLA, Krishna Yadav, has been arrested on the basis of the tapes. “The tapes will bring to the fore the names of other powerful people who have used their positions to stay in the shadows,” a crime branch official said.

Bombay High Court had earlier asked the Karnataka government to hand over the Telgi tapes by today, refusing to entertain the excuse that it would take time to transcribe the conversations on 56 tapes in Hindi, Urdu, Kannada, Marathi and English.

The high court told Karnataka police that if they could not provide transcripts by November 10, the tapes should be handed over. Today, the tapes were brought to Mumbai by the Karnataka additional director-general of police, T. Sreekumar.

Around 1,300 telephone conversations between Telgi and people in powerful positions, trying to armtwist him into parting with money, are on the tapes.

The high court has directed investigators to submit its report by Wednesday. It has given a categorical order that the inquiry has to be wrapped up before the Mumbai police commissioner retires on November 30. Sharma was the commissioner in Pune when the scam was busted in that city two years ago.

Vagal has already been charged with accepting a bribe of Rs 76 lakh to dilute the cases against Telgi. An assistant commissioner of police, M.C. Mulani, who allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs 3 crore to help Telgi out, stands suspended from the department. Some other Mumbai officers also made a fortune out of Telgi, said to be worth Rs 1,700 crore.

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