Sukesh Chandrashekhar-1640599993447
File photo of conman Sukesh Chandrasekhar Image Credit: ANI

In India, the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) charge-sheet reads like a laundry list of boldfaced designer goods. The holy grail of handbags — Hermès, Gucci outfits, Rolex wristwatches, fancy coloured diamonds jewellery, a horse worth ₹50 lakhs, a Mini Cooper (since returned) and cold hard cash, euphemistically “lent” to parents and siblings.

Jacqueline Fernandes, a top Bollywood heroine, fell hard for 32 year old con man Sukesh Chandrashekhar, who allegedly managed to extort ₹200 crores while lodged in Tihar Jail in a story which can only be possible in incredible India.

He dated Jacqueline in style. Sent private jets to Mumbai to bring her in comfort for their dates in Chennai. This, according to the ED charge sheet, happened on four occasions.

Jacqueline told the ED that she would go to luxury stores, take pictures of what she wanted and WhatsApp them to Chandrashekhar who then bought and had them delivered.

A celebrity con man

Chandrashekhar told Jacqueline that he was the owner of Sun TV and promised her many roles in Tamil films. Jacqueline was looking for a sea facing bungalow in Mumbai, which she would share with Chandrashekhar according to the ED.

So how did so many Bollywood big leaguers and a billionaire industrialist’s wife fall for the Chandrashekhar’s con. The man pretended to be calling from a top minister’s office, using a voice distortion app. He convinced the wife of the billionaire businessman that he would arrange his release for ₹200 crores.

The billionaire businessman, incidentally, is also lodged in Tihar Jail. During 2020-21 he made several calls to her posing as a senior official from the law ministry and the home ministry. Chandrashekhar would start and end every call with “Jai Hind” to impress the victim that he was a senior government official.

Chandrashekhar’s career as a con began when he was 17 and he decided that he wanted the lifestyle of the rich and famous. If he had a talent it was impersonation and he soon started fooling people pretending to be a senior official who would ensure that their troubles went away.

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While he was wooing Jacqueline, he was also in touch with Nora Fatehi and two other top Bollywood actresses sending them luxury gifts from his cell in Tihar Jail. None of the actors realised where he was as he pretended that he was touring Europe on a business travel in his private jet.

190425 Jacqueline Fernandez
Jacqueline Fernandez Image Credit: Twitter

None of the con would have been possible without the connivance of some jail officials who Chandrashekhar allegedly bribed and who provided him several cell phones and commercial voice distortion apps.

The Enforcement Directorate, the Income Tax and the Central Bureau of Investigation have lodged 32 criminal cases against Chandrashekhar and are examining the role of some jail and other officials who aided Chandrashekhar in his crimes.

Corruption in a graphic form

I investigated Chandrashekhar and his operation at a granular level because it tells the story of corruption in a graphic form in India. The fear of a “Mai Baap” (mother-father) government, the belief that most politicians at the top are somehow corrupt and amenable to bribes and that tax evasion and corrupt dealings are the natural way to get ahead in business, Chandrashekhar knew all these fears and preyed on them in a masterful way.

Every leader and Bollywood superstar in India is incomplete without an entourage and they live a rarefied life in a bubble that protects that from reality. Chandrashekhar counted on this and conned his way again and again.

Scared actors getting a call from Lutyens Delhi would rush to entertain any one who they perceived as all powerful. Chandrashekhar managed to con the billionaire’s wife out of a whopping ₹200 crores because she believed that the system was corrupt and her jailed husband had also carried out a huge corruption heist.

Chandrashekhar was born in to a poor family in Bengaluru in Karnataka. He studied up to class 12 in Madurai and then dropped out.

A senior Enforcement Directorate official told Gulf News, “Chandrashekhar said he learnt how to speak fluent English and that was all the education he needed”.

And, then began his career as a serial con man, Chandrashekhar told the ED that he was fascinated by Bollywood and had decided that his partner had to be a top Bollywood actor. The ED official said “Chandrashekhar could not believe his luck when one after another Bollywood actors succumbed to his stylish wooing.”

While in Tihar Jail, the con man was in talks with an OTT platform for a series on his life. Chandrashekhar was insistent that Ranveer Singh, his favourite actor, play his role.

Yes read that again slowly — the con man while in jail was in talks to make a biopic about his life. Chandrashekhar illustrates crime and connections in India. The biopic, when and if, it will be made, will be a huge success — much like Chandrashekhar’s con.