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Home / India / Behind bars, conman dupes former Ranbaxy owner's wife

Behind bars, conman dupes former Ranbaxy owner's wife

It takes months for her to discover that her conversations are with an impersonator, that she has been scammed for crores
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Representational image.
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Our Bureau And Agencies   |   New Delhi   |   Published 16.12.21, 10:42 PM

While a former billionaire is in jail, his wife spends hours on the phone discussing payments to obtain bail for him. She seems to believe that she is talking to senior government officials, including the Home Secretary of the country. She asks for a meeting with the Home Minister - and is told it will happen in due time if she "co-operates." She discusses money that was paid without the promised results. She talks of money given by her to "a party fund."

It takes months for her to discover that her conversations are with an impersonator, that she has been scammed for crores. After being alerted by the Enforcement Directorate in July, she starts recording the chats. She then hands these over to the Enforcement Directorate. And files a case with the Delhi Police alleging extortion and cheating adding up to 200 crores. 

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This is a story packed with twists. The biggest of which is that the man who was calling her was doing so from prison. He had access to a cellphone and used software that allowed him to 'replicate' or 'spoof' the phone numbers of top government officers. 

The recordings - 84 of them - have been submitted by the Enforcement Directorate to a Delhi court to help nail Sukesh Chandrashekhar, who has been in jail since 2017.

The woman who helped 'sting' him is Aditi Singh, whose husband, Shivinder Singh, at one time co-owned pharma giant Ranbaxy with his brother, Malvinder Singh. Shivinder Singh was arrested in 2019 on charges of money laundering.

No government officer impersonated by Sukesh Chandrashekhar has filed a police complaint. Because no part of the 200 crores was paid to a government official, there is no 'bribe' involved.

Aditi Singh's police case is filed against Sukesh Chandrashekhar, alleging that she was threatened into paying 200 crores. NDTV has reached out to her for comment; this report will be updated with a response from her lawyer or her, when received. 

In June 2020, Aditi Singh began engaging with what she thought were senior government officers. Sukesh Chandrashekhar was ambitious in the identities he faked - he had some conversations with her as Ajay Bhalla, the top bureaucrat in the Home Ministry; as Anoop Kumar, the country's Law Secretary; and as 'Abhinav', a junior Law Ministry officer, who was more forthright than the others in discussing the cash payments needed. 

The phones of Sukesh Chandrashekhar and Aditi Singh had been tapped for different cases linked to them. Their conversations were spread over 11 months; the later exchanges were recorded by Aditi Singh, according to investigators. Her sister, Arundhati Khanna, is also on tape, discussing how assets are being liquidated by her family to mobilize payments. 

Sukesh Chandrashekhar, in his different avatars, refers to bail hearings in Supreme Court and demands cash ahead of them. Aditi Singh's sister, Arundhati, expresses her discomfort with this direct reference to the court proceedings, stating: "So now if you put so much pressure on me brother I can't work. I've told you this before. And before also it's been done. It's only bought trouble, trouble and more trouble. And we don't know what you're using the money for. I've never asked you, I've never been told. I don't want to know. Because we were giving it for a party fund. We are giving a donation. What you use the donation for? Whether you use for elections or whether you use for putting in Ganga or whether you use it for planting trees - upto you. We don't know so we don't ask."

In one conversation, participating from prison, Shivinder Singh asks for a meeting between his wife and the Law Secretary. Aditi Singh is also promised this meeting by 'Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla'. He claims he has been "instructed personally by Home Minister Mr Amit Shah" to call her. He says government officers "will get in touch with you to see your husband is released" but this is contingent upon her continued "cooperation" which he suggests has been waning. She promises to course correct and seeks a meeting with him. 'Ajay Bhalla' says this will happen at the right time, same for a meeting with the Home Minister.

In August, NDTV reported that Aditi Singh had filed an FIR or police complaint against Sukesh Chandrashekar, accusing him of taking ₹ 200 crore in 30 instalments from her. In the complaint, she talked about calls from "Anoop Kumar (Law Secretary)" and "under-secretary Abhinav" for money that was collected in multiple tranches by two people in a sedan.

"These people used to scare me, threaten me. So slowly, I gave them 200 crores, using my jewellery, investments and other assets. Even then, the threats continued. They pointed to my children studying abroad and said they would settle scores with them," she has said in her complaint, which was filed after she was informed by the Enforcement Directorate that she was being gypped.

Aditi Singh appears to be one of Sukesh Chandrashekhar's many 'targets'. He lived an uber-luxe lifestyle in Chennai with a seaside mansion and a fleet of 23 cars including a Ferrari, a Bentley and a Rolls Royce. Actor Jacqueline Fernandes has been linked to a money-laundering case against him and was recently stopped at the Mumbai airport from flying abroad. She has told investigators that Sukesh Chandrashekhar presented her with Gucci gym clothes, Chanel bags, and expensive holidays with private jets, but that she participated in no illicit financial deals with him.



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