News about Sukesh Chandrasekhar, who is accused of running an extortion racket from the Tihar Jail, evoked memories of a con man who was as wily as him, if not more. In 1984, I was posted as a customs inspector at the Attari border. The border was closed in the wake of Operation Bluestar. On a sultry day, a handsome man of about 30 was ushered into my room. He introduced himself as Premjit Rampal, ‘director’ of a public sector bank. Presenting his gilded visiting card, he asked me for help. He claimed that the niece of the bank’s chairman and her two-year-old daughter were stranded in Pakistan.
We arranged their entry as a special case. It was an onerous task as Punjab had been notified as a disturbed state. They entered India in a brand-new Ford car and furnished a bank guarantee for about Rs 6 lakh, which included customs and other duties for the temporary import of the car, to be re-exported within three months. I felt gratified to help someone in distress.
A few months later, the BSF inspector whose help I had sought in securing the woman’s return complained that he had been defrauded by Rampal on the promise of securing his son a job in the bank. Alarmed that the car had not been exported within the given time frame, I found out that the bank guarantee had been forged.
After weeks of following a consistent trail, the car was spotted in Faridabad with an industrialist who had bought it from Rampal. The vehicle was seized, much to my satisfaction and extreme dismay of its owner who had spent a staggering sum on it. The car was registered in Batala on the basis of fudged import documents and payment of customs duty. The registering authority, when told about it, disclosed that he was also conned. Rampal had issued him a fake bank cheque to buy a scooter.
A year later, Rampal bumped into us at a coffee house in Amritsar. While we were overpowering him, he tore a document and tried to swallow it. When pieced together, it turned out to be a cheque for Rs 15 lakh. The bank manager accompanying him had advanced him a hefty loan without collateral. Rampal had convincingly posed as a big shot in the Ministry of Defence. We arrested him and put him in custody at the Gharinda police station.
Meanwhile, a letter from the purported niece of the bank chairman was received at the customs house, Amritsar, beseeching the authorities to punish him. Rampal was her paramour. Having been led up the garden path, she had left her husband and flown from London to marry him. Narrating her tale of woes, she said that a few weeks after arrival, he had disappeared with her car, jewellery and cash, leaving her stranded in India.
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