|Telgi, Sharma: What next'
Mumbai, June 27: The almost-forgotten fake-stamp scandal is in danger of ending in a whimper after three high-profile police officers were acquitted and alleged kingpin Abdul Karim Telgi made a fresh offer to plead guilty tomorrow.
R.S. Sharma, who held one of the most important law-enforcement jobs in the country as Mumbai police commissioner, is among the three discharged today. A Pune special court said the prosecution could not furnish evidence to substantiate the charge that they stalled the investigation.
The other two officers are Pradip Sawant, the former deputy commissioner credited with breaking the vice-like grip of Dawood Ibrahim over Mumbai, and Vashisht Andhale, an inspector. The two were charged with aiding and abetting the stamp syndicate that forged papers worth thousands of crores of rupees.
Later in the day, Telgi expressed his “desire” to plead guilty, adding a dramatic element.
Telgi had declared his intention to plead guilty twice earlier but had backed out, with which he can get away again by paying a fine for inconveniencing the court.
However, the circumstances have changed since then. The alleged kingpin is now said to be suffering from AIDS and wants to spend his remaining days in peace — whether in jail or outside.
Mumbai was today abuzz with speculation that if Telgi goes ahead with his declaration, he might name a few “small-time” politicians and let the case die a quiet death. The names of several influential politicians have been linked to the scandal.
The prosecution’s inability to find evidence against Sharma, despite moving in to arrest him a day after he retired in 2003, is being seen as a turning point and a strong signal that big heads are unlikely to roll.
On Tuesday, the court had rejected the three officers’ petitions against prosecuting them under the stringent organised crime law. A day later, they were discharged on the ground of lack of evidence.
But the prosecution said Telgi’s decision to plead guilty is “good news for us. He now knows that the noose has tightened around his neck”.
Sharma, who spent 11 months in judicial custody before the Supreme Court granted him bail in 2004, said today in Pune: “I was fixed by my colleague, an additional director-general of police, who I superseded.”
The former police commissioner, who was in line to become the director-general when he was linked to the scandal, added: “I will now go to court against them.”