He used a mobile phone from jail and swindled people pretending to be a government officer, a minister’s aide or even a Supreme Court judge. She collected the money, which was routed through hawala networks.
Together, they collected a fortune and lived fabulously, flaunting a sea-facing bungalow in Chennai, a fleet of cars and wildly extravagant interiors.
The questioning of two Bollywood actors helped the Enforcement Directorate uncover details of a massive con worth crores, operated by Sukesh Chandrashekar, jailed since 2017.
One of the actors is Sukesh Chandrashekar’s alleged partner-in-crime Leena Maria Paul, who starred in the 2013 film Madras Cafe. The other actor is the high-profile Jaqueline Fernandes, a friend of Leena Maria Paul and allegedly one of the couple’s victims.
According to sources in the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Delhi Police, there are over 23 cheating cases against them across the country.
The bungalow by the sea that Chandrashekar and Leena Maria Paul lived in was also bought after the couple conned Rs 40 crore out of Aditi Singh, the wife of ex Fortis promoter Shivinder Singh. It was her complaint that exposed the latest swindle.
The luxe home, filled with lavish furnishings and art pieces, also had in the living room a Mercedes Benz 300 SLR with 722 emblazoned on it. The car was a part of the famous Mille Miglia race of 1955.
The Enforcement Directorate has seized goods worth Rs 20 crore till now.
The haul includes shoes, bags and clothes from brands like Ferragamo, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Versace. The coupled also owned a Rolls Royce Ghost, a Bentley Bentayga, a Ferrari 456 Italia, one Lamborghini Urus, an Escalade, and a Mercedes AMG 63.
Chandrashekar allegedly used sophisticated spoofing technology with high-end devices for his cons. Agencies suspect the money was routed through Leena’s family in Dubai.
Chandrashekar was 17 when he was first arrested, in 2005. He allegedly cheated a Bengaluru-based couple of Rs 1.14 crore after pretending to be a friend of former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s son.
In 2013, he and Leena Maria Paul were arrested for fraud worth Rs 19 crore in Chennai involving Canara Bank.
Four years later, Chandrashekar was arrested by Delhi Police on bribery charges.
Pretending to be Law Secretary, he had allegedly struck a Rs 50 crore deal with former AIADMK chief VK Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran, promising to get the “Two Leaves” symbol assigned to his faction. He received Rs 2 crore as the first instalment, just before his arrest.
He was also charged with impersonating a Supreme Court judge and “directing” the judge presiding over the Two Leaves symbol bribery case to grant him bail. He called just before the bail hearing.
He was arrested in Delhi with Rs 1.3 crore cash and high-end cars.
He was charged again after the Income Tax department’s report showed him at a mall in Bengaluru, shopping and closing business deals when he was supposed to be in Delhi Police custody. Chandrasekar had allegedly bribed policemen into letting him go while in Bengaluru for a court hearing.
He was again charged by the CBI last year for allegedly posing as the agency’s director and extorting money from TDP MP Sambasiva Rao, who is an accused in a Rs 6,000 crore bank fraud case.
While investigating this, the CBI learnt that Chandrashekar had again conned Sasikara’s family after pretending to be a Supreme Court judge who would ensure her early release from a Bengaluru prison.
This month, the Delhi police charged Chandrasekar and Leena Maria Paul on the complaints of former Fortis Healthcare promoters Shivinder and Malvinder Singh’s wives. Pretending to be aides of the Union Home Minister and Law Minister, Chandrasekar allegedly duped the family of over Rs 40 crore.
It is this complaint that had investigators on Leena Maria Paul’s trail. She is in custody but not arrested yet.
Sources say Jaqueline Fernandes, who was questioned as a witness yesterday, was brought face-to-face with Leena.
While the Enforcement Directorate is tasked with recovering the money that runs into hundreds of crores, the Delhi Police is working on a water tight case to secure a conviction — the first in 16 years.
Sources said the CBI has written to Delhi Police on the phones seized from Chandrashekar in jail to try and decipher the technology he used; he always managed to have the number of a senior government functionary on the phone display of the receiver while deceiving people.