Dial D for Detective - With investigators, be in khaki or in plain clothes, ruling film screens, Brinda Sarkar turns the magnifying glass on real-life sleuths around us
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- Published 9.01.15
Want stolen jewels retrieved, business rivals shadowed or simply get a character certificate of your fiance before tying the knot with him? Salt Lake has its share of detective agencies that step up when residents need a bit of sleuthing done.
The spy next door
Films may glorify detectives as solving murder mysteries and tracing hidden treasures but what keeps our Salt Lake detectives busiest is matrimonial checks, both pre- and post-marriage. In fact, the way detectives talk about pre-matrimonial checks, they sound as imperative as getting horoscopes matched before weddings!
“Pre-matrimonial checks peak before the wedding season,” says Jayanta Kundu, owner of a detective agency in Sector I, requesting not to name it. “I already have three to four such cases pending and one more lady is coming today to get her daughter’s fiance checked. A popular matrimonial site has also contacted me for verification of their clients’ credentials.”
Kundu has run a security agency for almost a decade now but has diversified to this line of business two years ago as he was getting inundated with requests for pre-matrimonial checks. These checks are conducted over a fortnight and he charges between Rs 8,000 and 12,000 for them.
Indranil Mondal, of CG Block’s Probe Eye, says they get six to seven cases of pre-matrimonial checks every month.
“People have now realised that if they do a pre-matrimonial check, it saves the hassle of getting a post-matrimonial check later,” he says.
Mondal’s agency was previously into loan recovery but shifted to detection when they realised it would mean doing the same work of “finding people” minus the unpleasantness of confronting them.
Francis Chatterjee, director of the GC Block-based Cat’s Eye Investigations & Attorney, says most of the time pre-wedding checks do not unearth skeletons from the closet. “But once in a while, it is a narrow escape. Once a bride’s father came to us a fortnight before the wedding to check on the groom. We learnt that the man was already married with a child. The wedding was called off just in time,” says Chatterjee.
Over the last 18 years of business, Chatterjee says an increasing number of men and women are coming to get their fiances checked beforehand, in both arranged and “love” marriages. The agency is to investigate their jobs, marital status, addictions, criminal background etc.
“No one wants to take a chance as the stakes are too high. If the fiance is guilty, the client is saved by a whisker. And if he/she is clean, the couple lives happily ever after and the investigation is never mentioned again,” he says.
Mumbai-based Veteran Investigative Services, that runs a Salt Lake branch since 1989, gets around 3,500 cases a month across India. Out of these, the biggest chunk — of around 750 cases — involves post-matrimonial checks. “The figures of the Salt Lake branch are roughly in the same proportion,” says Rahul Rai, a senior associate from the head office in Mumbai.
Rai notes a dramatic increase in the number of adultery-related cases since 2006. “And in 98 per cent of the cases, the client’s suspicion is proved correct,” he adds.
Chatterjee says most clients coming for such cases are in the 35-45-year age group. “Once we found a married woman having an affair with a man she met on Facebook. Then the man fled with her money. When we caught him we learnt that he had cheated seven women like this before,” he says. Chatterjee is a criminal advocate and so Cat’s Eye helps with divorce proceedings if the clients wish to.
Mondal has noticed a rise in the number of post-marital checks too. “Previously clients would ask us to find out if their spouse was having an affair with anyone. Now they ask us to find out how many people their spouse is having an affair with,” he observes.
Another booming business is “friendship clubs” that claim to liaison between men and women looking to have a fling.
“They advertise calling out to men who want to offer their services,” says Mondal. “They tell the men that the women will pay them for their services but that the men need to pay and register with the club first. And they disappear as soon as the money is transferred to their accounts.”
Mondal has had clients who have been victims of such rackets and says such scams have reached epidemic proportions in the last two years.
“Middle-aged men are the softest targets. Victims of such cases cannot even lodge FIRs fearing social stigma so they come to us,” he says.
The other category with an unusually high frequency is black magic. “Our Salt Lake office gets around 45 such cases a month,” says Rai. “A typical case will have either a mother-in-law or daughter-in-law suspecting the other of using a tantrik’s services to harm them.”
The sleuths then shadow the suspect who, if guilty, would visit the tantrik in the suburbs. The slueths then extract information by bribing the tantrik’s deputies. Chatterjee’s agency has caught many a fake tantrik. “Once we caught a tantrik who had duped devotees off Rs 8 crore from Malda to Mathura,” he says.
Kundu gets cases of corporate espionage. “Top bosses ask us to spy on employees they feel are leaking information to rivals or to verify a candidate’s background before
10 HALLMARKS OF A SUPER INVESTIGATOR
Patience: You may have to wait hours before your suspect appears
Eye for detail: You may enter a room for just a minute but you should be able to recall the colour of the walls, furniture etc.
Presence of mind: It will help you out of sticky situations
General knowledge: You never know which titbit of information comes of use
Tech-savvy: You have to use technology to your advantage
Chemistry: A background in chemistry helps in forensic investigations
Law: You have to know what your rights are
Fitness: You must be agile and quick on your feet
Magic: Watch and perform magic tricks to improve your observation skills
Detective films: Read and watch detective books, films and TV shows for ideas
If you are ticking all these boxes, read up the sleuth’s shopping list to the next