Ever since the trailer of Scam 2003 dropped online last week, it has become the talk of the town. This SonyLIV show is about the infamous Telgi scam that gripped the nation in 2003. The scam was masterminded by Abdul Karim Telgi and the show is inspired by reporter Sanjay Singh’s book – Telgi Scam: Reporter’s ki Diary. In case you forgot about the scam, here’s all you need to know about it that will help you while watching the show.


In the 1990s, Telgi orchestrated a shortage of stamps and stamp papers. In India, you need stamp papers to pay court fees in civil cases. As our courts do not accept cash and cheques, these judicial stamps that are sold by the government are the ways people pay the required fees.

Investigations and probes reveal that Telgi had bribed the officials of the Indian Security Press in Maharashtra to help create an artificial scarcity of documents. He obtained the required machinery and printing material to create fake documents. He had the support of officials who helped him to expand this illegal business all over India. This scam remained undetected for years.

scam 2003

These included fake stamp papers, judicial court fee stamps, revenue stamps, special adhesive stamps, foreign bills, broker’s notes, insurance policies, share transfer certificates, insurance agencies, and many other legal documents. Telgi had apparently recruited 300 agents to sell these fakes to bulk purchasers. The whole thing was estimated to be over ₹30,000 crores.

telgi scam
The Hans India

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Before this stamp paper counterfeit scam, Telgi was also involved in creating fake passports. He set up a business where he would export labour from India to Saudi Arabia. He created fake documents that allowed workers to bypass immigration checks seamlessly without any authority batting an eyelid.

It was only in 2000 when the police caught two of Telgi’s men transporting the fake stamp papers in Bengaluru. The men lay bare all the details of the scam to the police. The police raided multiple spots in Bengaluru and seized the counterfeit legal documents.


The extent of his scam was so deep that it implicated many police officers and government employees. One report states that a police official was shielding Telgi. On one occasion, policemen were found partying at his Colaba house. Anna Hazare had filed a PIL and the Special Investigation Team went on to nab the the culprits. Telgi was finally arrested in 2001. However, in jail, Telgi continued his counterfeit business from behind bars. Reports state that police officers had provided him with a mobile phone.

abdul karim telgi
The Wire

The Tax Department had demanded ₹202 crore and had seized his property to pay the fine. Telgi was sentenced to 30 years of rigorous imprisonment. He died in 2017 after multiple organ failures. His arrest highlighted the loopholes and the grey areas in multiple administrative and regulatory systems. This scam also led to the authorities introducing reforms in issuing stamp papers and the digitisation of stamp paper reforms in India.

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