Sara Ali Khan, Janhvi Kapoor and Bhumi Pednekar were among Bollywood stars in the crosshairs of a jailed con artist as recently as last year and the grifter met various female models and actors pretending to be a business tycoon inside Delhi’s Tihar jail in 2018 – two sensational new episodes in the Sukesh Chandrasekhar saga have emerged courtesy a recently filed charge sheet by the Enforcement Directorate.
Many of the actors and models were introduced to the fraudster by an associate Pinky Irani also known as Angel, 53, who herself took some of them to meet Sukesh Chandrasekhar in jail, the agency has said. She had been arrested by the agency in December last year and was recently granted bail by a Delhi court.
Irani has been accused by the Enforcement Directorate or ED of laundering money and helping Chandrasekhar establish contact with actor Jacqueline Fernandez and sending her expensive gifts on his behalf.
A supplementary charge sheet, detailing the role of Mumbai-based Irani in the money laundering case against 32-year-old Chandrasekhar and others, was filed by the Enforcement Directorate earlier this month before a court.
The agency, in this prosecution complaint, has attached replies sent to it by Bollywood actors Bhumi Pednekar, Sara Ali Khan and Janhvi Kapoor, who were similarly approached by Chandrasekhar allegedly through Irani.
Chandrasekhar and his wife Leena Maria Paul are being probed by the Delhi Police as well as the ED for allegedly cheating and extorting money from wealthy individuals like former Fortis Healthcare promoter Shivinder Mohan Singh’s wife Aditi Singh.
Investigators found that Chandrasekhar, while he was at Delhi’s Rohini jail, allegedly ran an extortion racket using phone spoofing technology. He was later shifted to the Tihar jail.
The Enforcement Directorate is tracking people who allegedly received proceeds from this scam and trying to unearth the money trail. So far, the agency has not named these actors or models as accused as they could be called upon as witnesses.
According to the charge sheet, Bollywood actor Bhumi Pednekar – among those on Chandrasekhar’s list – submitted her reply to the agency early this year stating that Irani messaged her saying she was the “vice president (of) HR News Express Post and informed her that their group chairman (Chandrasekhar) is a fan of hers and wanted to speak with her about a huge project and also wanted to gift her a car.”
The 32-year-old actor told the agency that “she did not receive any gifts from Chandrasekhar or his associates, including Pinky Irani, nor has she ever met or had any sort of personal interaction, either social or professional, with them.”
Sara Ali Khan told the ED that she did not know anyone by the name of Sukesh Chandrasekhar or Shekhar but someone in the name of “Mr Suraj Reddy did WhatsApp her on 21.05.2021 saying he would like to gift her a car as a family gesture and mentioned that his CEO Mrs Irani had tried to contact her.”
Khan, 26, said the Reddy person continued to insist on giving her gifts and she constantly refused the same.
“However, after many attempts of refusing him, she did agree on receiving a box of chocolates from him and thereafter he sent a Franck Muller watch along with the chocolates,” the ED said.
Janhvi Kapoor told the ED that while she was not approached by Chandrasekhar or Irani, she was contacted by a lady who identified herself as Leena from a company called Nail Artistry regarding being a celebrity guest at the launch of a salon in Bengaluru.
She wrote to the agency saying she inaugurated the salon in July last year and received a Christian Dior luxury bag and a professional fee of Rs 18.94 lakh in her bank account. She sent a statement of the transaction to the ED.
Nail Artistry is stated to be the business enterprise of Leena Maria Paul.
“…it was established that by projecting Sukesh Chandrasekhar as a business tycoon she (Irani) established his contacts with various models/actresses and hid his real identity and got various models/actresses in touch with Chandrasekhar.
“She took some of them to Tihar Jail to meet Sukesh Chandrasekhar and she impersonated as Alka Kumar, P Kumar, Angel K, CFO of Jaya TV/Sun TV and CFO of News Express Post for contacting these models/actresses,” the ED alleged in the charge sheet.
The same modus operandi was used by Irani and Chandrasekhar to approach Jacqueline Fernandez through her makeup artist S Muthathil, it said.
The agency also recorded the statements of some young models of whom at least three told the ED that they were “introduced” to Chandrasekhar by Irani and they even met him unrestricted at the Tihar jail in 2018 along with her.
“Pinky Irani was a close confidant and advisor of Chandrasekhar. Not only did she create a facade of being a businessman for Chandrasekhar, she also allowed him to project himself as a man of means and a free man by ensuring that he could deliver what he wanted,” the ED has claimed.
The ED has arrested Chandrasekhar, Paul, Irani, two other co-accused, Pradeep Ramnani and Deepak Ramnani in this case.
In August last year, it had raided some of Chandrasekhar’s premises and seized a sea-facing bungalow in Chennai, Rs 82.5 lakh in cash and over a dozen luxury cars.
In a statement, it had claimed that Chandrasekhar is a “known conman” and is being probed by the Delhi Police in a case of alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and extortion to the tune of about Rs 200 crore.
“Chandrasekhar is the mastermind of this fraud. He has been part of the crime world since the age of 17. He has multiple FIRs against him…,” the ED had said.
Despite being in the jail, it said, Chandrasekhar “did not stop conning” people.
“He (using a cell phone procured illegally in prison) with the help of technology made spoofed calls to dupe people as the numbers displayed on the called party’s phone number belonged to senior government officers.
“While speaking (from prison) to these persons, he claimed to be a government officer offering to help people for a price,” the ED had claimed.
(With inputs from PTI)