Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXIX No. 5, June 16-30, 2019

From ‘Kuberar’ to crook

by T. Dorai Raj, Inspector of Police, Crime Branch CID, Madras

On 11th January, 1963 when K.V. Rangiah Chettiar of Coimbatore – a man of unusual calibre and resourceful optimism – known to the public as a possible inheritor of several coffee and tea estates worth millions, who called himself “Kuberar” was convicted and sentenced to three years Rigorous Imprisonment for using a forged document as genuine and nineteen months, R.I. for cheating, in the Court of the Second Additional Sessions Judge in S.C. 171/62, it looked incredible but it was a fact.

A psychoanalyst would be hard put to find anything in his early life which would indicate that one day he would be a swindler of a rare type. His upbringing was as ordinary as that of any child of the low-income group brought up between two world wars. His paternal uncle, Veeri Chettiar and his wife Nagammal were residing at Kothagiri running a small business. They had a son Velusami and two daughters Nanjammal and Lakshmiammal. Towards the end of the World War I, Velusami died leaving his wife and no other male member to fulfil the great debt to his parents on their death. Being devout Hindus, in order to make sure that their happiness in the next world was not denied to them, Veeri Chettiar and his wife Nagammal adopted Rangiah as their son under a registered deed in 1923. They had three houses. They were also bequeathed under a registered will in 1923 itself. Rangiah got one house and the two daughters one each respectively. Veeri Chettiar died in 1928. Not long afterwards Rangiah sold away the house bequeathed to him and settled down in ­Coimbatore.

Soon his scheming dormant brain started blossoming. The two houses bequeathed to the two daughters of Veeri Chettiar were constantly kindling his greed. Therefore, he preferred a complaint for trespass against his adoptive mother and sisters in the Court of the Joint Magistrate, Coonur in C.C. 97/1929. Though the case was acquitted, yet, when it was under trial he managed to prepare a document purporting to be the unregistered ‘Will’ left by the deceased Veeri Chettiar on the eve of his death and sent it by post to the Court of Joint Magistrate, Coonur as though it was sent by his adoptive mother Nagammal. When it reached the Court, it was kept with the case records as an unmarked document.

After a lapse of few years, he applied for and obtained a certified copy of the document from the Court of the Joint Magistrate, Coonur in 1942. In effect the seal of the Court affixed to the Certified Copy, provided a halo of sanctity and authenticity to what was a mere product of pure imagination. However, when one went through it, the impression created would be that late Veeri Chettiar was indeed a multi-millionaire owning several hundreds of acres of flourishing Coffee and Tea estates, many buildings and cash deposited with the Government and banks and that he bequeathed them to the enjoyment of his adopted son Rangiah after the death of his wife Nagammal. She died in 1947.

An opportunity now presented itself and Rangiah was not slow to seize it. He filed a petition in O.P. 17 of 1949 in the Court of Subordinate Judge, Coimbatore, for the issue of a succession certificate in respect of a sum of Rs.1000/- said to be in deposit with a Mahajana Bank. In support of his claim, he filed the certified copy of the so-called unregistered will obtained from the Joint Magistrate, Coonur. Clever as he was, he did not require the Court to decide the genuineness of the so-called unregistered willl but only pressed for the succession certificate. However, strange it maybe he did succeed in obtaining a succession certificate.

Being now armed with a genuine registered adoption deed, a certified copy of a bogus unregistered Will, and a succession certificate granted by a competent Judicial Court, he addressed the Collector of Nilgris to direct the Revenue officers at Coonur and Kothagiri to point out to him the boundaries of the various estates mentioned in the unregistered bogus Will and also to furnish him the original of the unregistered Will. By the time, the case records in C.C. 97/1929 were destroyed due to the efflux of time and finding that there was no possibility of verifying the certified copy with the original, and also to furnish him the original itself, the Collector informed Rangiah that the records had been destroyed due to efflux of time.

That was the reply which was wanted by him to achieve his purpose and when he got it, he addressed the Governor of Madras complaining against the unhelpful attitude of the Revenue officials and claiming a compensation of Rs. 3 lakhs. The Law Department of Madras which deals with the petitions informed him by a letter dated 21-11-1951 that it was open to him to work out his rights in a Court of Law. This made him lie low for some time.

In 1954, he again gathered his wits and prepared himself for further efforts. He applied to the Law Department to furnish him a certified copy of their reply dated 21-11-1951 on the pretext that he had lost the letter. Accordingly, it was furnished to him by post.

Early in 1955, he acknowledged it by a letter with which was found enclosed a copy of a petition alleged to have been sent to the Collector of Nilgiris wherein he had mentioned deliberately that all the original documents relating to his claims were with the Law Department, Government of Madras. To substantiate his assertion, he even quoted a reference number of the Law Department.

The subtle and surreptitious method adopted to draw the Law Department into the picture was easily discerned and detected. The reference number quoted in the petition was found to be the one allotted to the correspondence relating to the grant of the certified copy and there was no original documents with them either. Consequently, the Assistant Secretary, Law Department promptly informed him in letter No. 35/55-1, dated 11-1-1955 that the original documents alleged were not with the Law Department. The letter was short and straight containing neatly executed typed matter with enough and a trifle more space between the end of the last sentence and the signature of the Assistant Secretary. This was exactly what he desired and he got it unasked.

He was not the person to let any chance slip from his hold. He also knew that modern scientific inventions were as serviceable to illegitimate purposes as they were for legitimate causes. He sought the help of of a typist, who is now no more, and with the aid of a typewriter having identical types, he made him type in the intervening space between the end of the last sentence and signature of the Assistant Secretary, the following meaningful sentence.

“However, on production of the original documents, the deposit amount of Rs. 13, 75, 923-11-6 may be transferred to your name.”

He did not stop there. He took photostat copies of the letter so forged utlising the services of a professional photographer. For all practical purposes it looked genuine with the State emblem and other symbols of a letter emanating from the Government promising to deliver a huge sum on mere production of original documents. The endorsement of the Collector of Nilgris that the original documents were destroyed due to efflux of time came in handy and he utilised it to the great advantage for his inability to produce the original documents. As he was already in possession of a certified copy of the forged will and a succession certificate issued by the Sub Court, Coimbatore, what then could prevent him from calling himself a “KUBERAR” or a multi-millionaire in modern usage? He did call himself a Kuberar and announced to the World as such through the media of the Press. Had he only hesistated for a while he would have been easily disposed of as one of several psychoneurotics, talking through his hat.

But he did not hesitate. A consummate swindler he was. Soon, he took the necessary bold steps for the realisation of his dream of becoming a multi-millionaire. He also knew that human cupidity in one form or the other was the most vulnerable point for attack and he did attack and exploit it to his great advantage. His victims were not ordinary unsophisticated persons but learned Lawyers, prosperous business-men and wealthy landlords who knew that bearing very well. Neatly dressed in the manner and style befitting the person of a “Kuberar” fallen on evil days and displaying a feigned trait of nobility, he presented himself with his four weapons of documents in his armoury and threw up attractive offers. One main offer was to invite them to claim the promised sum of Rs. 13,75,923-11-6 from the Law Department, Government of Madras on the basis of the photostat copy of the letter bearing No.35/55-1, dated 11-1-55 signed by the Assistant Secretary telling them that they were free to spend up to Rs.1,75,932-11-6 for achieving their object and when realised they could take away the amount earmarked for expenditure and share the balance of Rs.12 lakhs equally. To several of his lawyers he had also promised buildings, house sites and estates. There was also a rider to it, and that was that they entered into a written agreement not only to achieve the said purpose on the above terms but also that the expenses including the reasonable maintenance charges of the “Kuberar” were met by those who accepted the offer.

Several lawyers and members of the public entered into such agreement one after the other and parted with large amounts in providing financial aid to the Kuberar under the genunine hope that they would realise the amount from the Law Department and could become millionaires overnight, because there was nothing in the documents to suspect his version. Whenever a lawyer or other person suspected him it was invariably after he had spent fairly a large sum on the sponsor and that was just sufficient for him to cancel the agreement and engage another lawyer forthwith on the ground that he had not taken sufficient measures to realise the amount from the Government. This game went on, month after month, inspite of the fact that as early as 1956, a leading advocate of Madras whom he engaged for claiming the amount from the Government, came to know the truth and informed him that there was no amount with the Law Department and his claim was untenable. As no lawyer or member of the public came forward with a complaint probably fearing loss of reputation for entering into a fraudulent agreement, he carried on his operations successfully and even gained the boldness to file a sit against the Government in the Judicial Court at Coimbatore.

On a reference received from the Law Department, his activities were checked and on the complaint of Sri. V.N.D. Sundararajan of Salem whom he had similary cheated to the extent of Rs.7,000 a case in Coimbatore Town East, Cr.No. 384/61 u/s. 420, 467, 471 IPC was registered and investigated.

Investigation disclosed that Veeri Chetty never owned the properties mentioned in the unregistered so-called “Will” and several of the tea and coffee estates were non-existing. Even though he was ably defended, he was found guilty and sentenced to a maximum period of 3 years R.I. on the 11th day of January, 1963, the Judge commending the work done by the investigating officer. His efforts to have it quashed on appeal in the Court of Sessions, Coimbatore and on revision in the High Court of Madras were futile and he is now safely behind the bars probably hatching better schemes for becoming a Kuberar in reality.

– reproduced from The Madras Police Journal, October-December 1966.

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