Sukesh Chandrasekhar: Master conman who duped the rich and powerful

Chandrasekhar is a 33-year-old master-conman with over 30 cases of fraud filed against him from various corners of the country. He is yet to be convicted in any of them. He allegedly siphoned off over Rs. 500 crores from over a thousand powerful, influential but unsuspecting souls. 


WHEN he starts talking, Sukesh Chandrasekhar is at his charming best. If he fancies you, be sure you will get the most expensive gifts. He wears the most expensive watches and drives cars the rich dream of owning. He proudly owns 85 watches worth Rs. 18 crore and 54 cars worth Rs. 35 crore. In his Goregaon office in Mumbai, he has a fake painting by artist M.F. Hussain and a fake sword which he says belongs to Macedonian king Alexander the Great. He carries a dummy pistol and walks around with bodyguards. He is a school dropout but has the craftiness of a smooth conman. Politicians, businessmen and celebrities rubbed shoulders with him, only to get conned.

He is a great fixer. When he was arrested and sent to Delhis Rohini Jail, he got an exclusive barrack, which would otherwise have been crammed with prisoners. He had a BMW car parked on the jail premises to cater to his visitors. He got himself air-conditioning, smartphones and television. His clothes and utensils were washed by other inmates. None of this could be recorded by the jails CCTV cameras as they were blocked with water bottles and curtains. He got all this by bribing the jail staff. He reportedly shelled out more than Rs. 12 crore for these exclusive privileges.

A Delhi police chargesheet says that deputy jail superintendent Dharm Singh Meena was collecting Rs. 60 to Rs. 75 lakhs every fifteen days to be distributed to jail officers and staff. Around 35 such instalments were collected. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has booked 81 jail officials on corruption charges. 

Chandrasekhar got the wife of Ranbaxy co-founder Shivinder Singh to cough up Rs. 214 crore in one of his largest heists, promising that he could get her husband out of jail on bail. 

Chandrashekhar was never short of ideas. He even impersonated Justice Kurian Joseph, the then Supreme Court judge, calling another judge and asking her to grant bail to Chandrasekhar. Anyesh Roy, deputy commissioner of police, Economic Offences Wing, Delhi Police told the Supreme Court that Chandrasekhar used to pay around Rs. 1.5 crore every month as a bribe to jail officials to carry out his extortions without any hindrance.

It is just a matter of time before a creative film maker decides to make a film on Chandrasekhar, the 33-year-old master-conman who has over 30 cases of fraud filed against him from various corners of the country. He is yet to be convicted in any of them. 

As he cools his heels in jail today, investigators wonder how he allegedly siphoned off over Rs. 500 crores from over a thousand unsuspecting souls who were powerful and influential. He had Bollywood celebrities eating out of his hands. He generously gifted them expensive jewellery, watches, paintings, shoes and dresses.

Also read: Dilip Chhabria made crores designing cars, then why did he design creative ways to defraud banks?

Swindling wife of Ranbaxy co-owner of Rs. 200+ crores

While serving his time in a Delhi jail, he used his contacts to reach out to Aditi Singh, wife of industrialist and former co-owner of Ranbaxy, Shivinder Singh who was jailed for various economic offences. He impersonated a union law secretary who was calling under instructions from the Prime Ministers Office, saying he could get her husband out on bail. He got her to cough up Rs. 214 crore in one of his largest heists. This was siphoned off in about 40 instalments, mostly in cash.

When Singh was confronted by the ED about the cash transactions, she realised she was conned by Chandrasekhars ring of accomplices. They had collected the cash from her after talking convincingly about how the government would release her husband and appoint him to a high-level committee to tackle COVID. As the operation was so smooth, she did not suspect she was being duped. She sold her jewellery, liquidated many of her assets and investments, and even borrowed money. Chandrasekhar took care to modulate his voice according to the role he was playing while talking to his victims. Obviously, he was not only charming but convincing. And cunning. 

Duping Bollywood stars

Sri Lankan actress and model Jacqueline Fernandez did not suspect that she would one day be interrogated by the ED for receiving generous gifts worth nearly seven crore rupees from Chandrasekhar. This, according to the ED, included 20 pieces of jewellery, 36 bags, five watches, 65 shoes, 47 garments, nine paintings, a horse, four Persian cats, a BMW car for her sister Geraldine Walker, a Porche and Maserati car for her parents, an SUV for her brother, Warren Fernandez, a house for her parents in Bahrain, an advance payment for a scriptwriter on behalf of Fernandez, and another payment for a sea-facing house in Juhu for her. Chandrasekhar had reportedly given these details to the ED earlier. Still, he later retracted, saying he did not remember the details. How can one forget details of cars given as gifts?

Both Chandrasekhar and his wife Paul worked in tandem, using celebrities to create hype and credibility around themselves.

Fernandez denied that her parents or her sister were gifted cars, while talking to the ED. She has denied being in a relationship with Chandrasekhar. But he has not denied it. Photographs of both cosying up to each other were splashed all over the media even before the scandal hit the roof. It was a story that the media loved as Fernandez had come from Sri Lanka to make a career in Bollywood after winning the Miss Universe Sri Lanka title. She has established a successful career for herself in Bollywood. Chandrasekhar introduced himself to Fernandez as Shankar Ratna Vela, the owner of Tamil-language general entertainment pay television channel, Sun TV and the nephew of late Tamil Nadu chief minister, politician and actress J. Jayalalithaa. 

The ED has named Fernandez as a co-accused with Chandrasekhar under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act for knowingly enjoying the proceeds of crime. Fernandez told a Delhi court that Chandrasekhar had played with her emotions and made her life hell. She said that he lured her, saying that he wanted her to act in films in south India and as the owner of Sun TV, he could line up projects for her. She claimed that she knew of his real name only after his criminal background came out. Having led Jacqueline up the garden path, Chandrasekhar targeted better-known Bollywood stars.

Two years ago, Chandrasekhar told Canadian actress, model, dancer, singer and producer Norah Fatehi that he wanted to gift her a BMW car. Fatehi told him to speak to Mehboob Khan, her cousins husband. The ED says he then bought a car in Khans name. Fatehi had attended a charity event organised by Chandrasekhars wife, actress Leena Maria Paul, in Chennai. Fatehi told the ED that she personally did not know Chandrasekhar or Paul. She told the court that Chandrasekhar had promised her a big house and a luxurious lifestyle if she agreed to be his girlfriend.

As his attempts at wooing Bollywood actresses were successful, Chandrasekhar attempted to contact actress Sara Ali Khan using the WhatsApp platform, offering expensive gifts, including a car. Khan declined every time an offer was made. Finally, she agreed to accept a box of chocolates. Chandrasekhar sent her a box of chocolates along with a Frank Muller watch.

Chandrasekhar tried in 2021 to pull actress Bhumi Pednekar into his net by posing as a generous billionaire businessman who wanted to gift her a car. Pednekar said nothing doing. 

Paul invited actress Janhvi Kapoor to inaugurate Nail Artistry, a salon she ran in Bengaluru. Kapoor agreed and was paid Rs. 18.94 lakhs for it. Though there is nothing apparently illegal here, the point is that both husband and wife worked in tandem, using celebrities to create hype and credibility around themselves.

Also read: Who Led Cox & Kings Into a Deep Pit?

Role of his wife

Paul was his partner in crime. She wanted to become an actress, so Chandrasekhar said he would produce a film for her. Though he lied to her in their first meeting, saying he was the grandson of former Tamil Nadu chief minister, the late politician and writer M. Karunanidhi, she married him and later partnered with him to con people. The ED is investigating her involvement in four cheating cases.

Paul sweet talked M. Balasubramanian and Chitra, a business couple who ran a sanitary napkin vending machine firm, saying that Jayakumar, an Indian Administrative Service officer in Karnataka would award them a contract for 30,000 machines for Rs. 132 crore as the state wanted to give out free napkins. But the contract would come through only if they agreed to part with Rs. 19 crore. 

Balasubramanian called a number that was given to him to confirm the deal. When he called, it was promptly picked up by Chandrasekhar impersonating Jayakumar. 

Chandrasekhar forged the signature of the Bengaluru police commissioner in 2006 in a letter stating that he was permitted to drive anywhere in Karnataka. Interestingly, his parents helped him to do this.

Convinced, Balasubramanian approached V. Jagdeesha, his Canara Bank manager, for a loan of Rs. 19 crore. When it was turned down, Chandrasekhar again impersonated Jayakumar. He told the bank manager what a good deal it was. He also sent him forged government documents to further convince him. The loan was sanctioned. 

Balasubramanian transferred the money to various accounts of Chandrasekhar. By the time alert bank officials figured out what had happened, seven crore rupees had already been withdrawn. They could, however, freeze the remaining Rs. 12 crore.

In another similar fraud, Chandrasekhar promised a textile firm a government order from Karnataka worth Rs. 400 crore for school uniforms. As soon as he got a commission of Rs. 84 lakh for it, he vanished.

Early beginning

Chandrasekhar started early, even when he was not old enough to procure a driving licence. He forged the signature of the Bengaluru police commissioner in 2006 in a letter stating that he was permitted to drive anywhere in Karnataka. Interestingly, his parents helped him to do this.  

His parents also helped him cheat a Bengaluru-based 76-year-old man of Rs. 1.15 crore. Telling him that he knew the son of the then Karnataka chief minister, politician and businessman H.D.G. Kumaraswamy, he promised to help him get back a piece of land acquired by the Bangalore Development Authority. Once he got the money, he bought himself 12 watches and a BMW car.

Chandrasekhar has escaped the tentacles of law numerous times. This time, one hopes that the law has finally caught up with him.