Mumbai, Jan. 17: A special CBI court today handed stamp scam kingpin Abdul Karim Telgi his first conviction in a 10-year-old case, one of the dozens that have spawned a multi-crore-rupee trail across the nation.
Judge U.D. Salvi sentenced Telgi, 44, and two of his associates to 10 yearsí imprisonment.
The case involving the sale of fake stamps worth Rs 16.58 lakh was the first to be tried among 48 others lodged against Telgi in 10 states.
The trial used videoconferencing for the first time in the country.
Speaking from Yerawada central jail in Pune, Telgi made a desperate attempt to win the courtís sympathy. ďI am suffering from HIV. I am a diabetic. I have submitted reports from Sassoon hospital, Pune. My wife is also admitted to a hospital,Ē he pleaded.
Dressed in a blue designer shirt and trousers, a shaken Telgi refused to sit on a bench behind him as Salvi read out the sentence this afternoon.
He was found guilty under Sections 120 (b) (conspiracy), 255 (counterfeiting government stamps), 258 (selling of counterfeit stamps), 259 (possession of counterfeit) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC.
Telgi has been given 10 years in prison and fined Rs 50,000 under the first two sections, five years and a Rs 20,000 fine under the next two and three yearsí imprisonment for cheating. All sentences would run concurrently.
Along with associates Ramratan Soni and Sanjay Gaikwad ' both will have to pay Rs 50,000 as fine apart from spending 10 years behind bars ' Telgi had allegedly sold fake special adhesive stamps worth Rs 16.58 lakh to Poornanand & Co. a solicitorís firm, in 1995.
When he did not give a formal receipt for the purchase, the firm got suspicious and went to police.
The son of a railway station master from Khanapur, 29 km from Belgaum in Karnataka, Telgi used to earn a living by hawking jackfruit and bananas to tourists. After graduating in commerce from Belgaumís Gogate College, he worked in the Gulf for a few years.
Telgi came to Mumbai in the late 80s and opened a recruitment agency.
His first brush with the police came in the early 90s when he was arrested for involvement in a visa racket.
The police said the business of fake stamps took shape in Telgiís mind soon after, when he met an undertrial who told him how lucrative it was.
Out of jail, he began selling fake stamps, and by 1994 had acquired a stamp-vending licence from the Maharashtra government. Chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was revenue minister then.
Armed with an official licence, Telgiís business flourished. He acquired printing machinery from Nasik Security Press and set up a printing press at Fort.
By the time the scam ' pegged at Rs 30,000 crore ' came to light, the tentacles of Telgiís business had spread to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi, Bengal, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.
Karnataka and Maharashtra have set up special teams to carry out investigations into the cases lodged there.
Apart from fake stamps, Telgi has dabbled in supplying adulterated petrol ' another business that promised a fortune.
Bribing his way to the men who mattered, Telgi befriended several police officers and politicians. In 2002, officials of the special investigation team found him relaxing in his Cuffe Parade apartment ' one of his nine flats in Mumbai ' with two police officers when he should have been in a crime branch lock-up.
Three IPS officers ' police commissioner R.S. Sharma, joint commissioner Shridhar Vagal and deputy commissioner (crime) Pradeep Sawant ' were arrested on the charge of helping the scamster.
Samajwadi Party MLA Anil Gote and his Telugu Desam Party counterpart Krishna Yadav were among the politicians who had to pay a price for their rapport with Telgi. They were held for currying favour.