At first Bahrain-Lankan model Jacqueline Fernandez, who made good in Bollywood, refused to take the call from a mystery man last December who identified himself simply as ‘Shekhar Ratna Vela’. But that did not deter India’s ace conman Sukesh Chandrasekhar who knew there was more ways than one to skin a cat.
In January this year Chandrasekhar, the man indicted in the Indian rupees 2 billion extortion case, gave a call to Jacqueline’s make-up artist Shaan Muttathil pretending to be a high government official. Shaan passed on Chandrasekhar’s message and phone number and soon she was in touch with him. The expensive gifts started to flow and soon it was a hop-step-and-jump for him to be welcomed with open arms by the woman who had rejected him out of hand at first. The conman had weaved his magic and Jacqueline was held spellbound.
This is the sleazy script now being played out in an Indian court in the criminal case against Chandrasekhar for having exhorted Rs 2 billion from the wife of a jailed businessman promising his early release by pretending to be a top official from the Law Ministry between 2020 and 2021 – while he, Chandrasekhar, himself was also in jail.
But Chandrasekhar had always been a dreamer, forever dreaming of get rich quick schemes, driven by ambition to somehow become fantastically rich. With a natural flair for impersonations coupled with exuberant confidence and with the mobile phone as his primary instrument to execute his crimes, he was in business: the Indian replica of the true life character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film ‘Catch me if you can’.
From the age of 17, he started swindling people posing as senior government officers over his phone. In 2007 he duped over 100 people by impersonating a high ranking bureaucrat in government making them believe he was getting their work done by the Bangalore Development Authority. He was soon exposed and arrested but managed to get out of police custody. But the nasty skirmish with the law did not stop him but drove him on to expand the business. Recruiting associates, he went on a swindling spree and was arrested several times, but even while on bail the old habit never died.
In 2015, he married his partner in crime, Leela, a model and actress, and moved to Mumbai where he set up a Ponzi scheme. Over 450 people invested only to find they had been robbed of all their monies. The Central Bureau of Investigations filed action against Chandrasekhar and wife who were accused of cheating investors to the tune of Rs. 195 million Indian rupees.
In 2017 came the game changer. He learnt that Tamil Nadu politician T.T.V. Dinakaran was desperate to secure Jayalalithaa’s legacy and to obtain the ‘two leaves’ election symbol. Chandrasekhar told Dinakaran that he knew the election officials at the Election Commission and would bribe them to get the symbol in his favour. The price: 500 million Indian rupees. Later having learnt of Chandrasekhar, Dinakaran filed a complaint. He was arrested and then remanded.
But four walls did not a prison make for his fertile imagination for when the window of freedom closed on him another window of opportunity opened to let his spirit free. It was here in a Delhi jail that he planned his most audacious enterprise yet: The 2 billion buck extortion racket which led to the first Act of the present drama unfolding in Delhi’s High Court last week with Jacqueline – whom he wooed and won during his interim bail – starring in a leading role, having liberally enjoyed his mind boggling extravagance.
The charge sheet read out by India’s Enforcement Directorate revealed the many expensive gifts Jacqueline, who had the red carpet laid out for her when she visited Lanka in 2013 to open her elite restaurant ‘Kema Sutra’ at the newly renovated Arcadia shopping complex off Independent Square where a single hopper was priced at 250 bucks, had received from big spender Chandrasekhar. Jacqueline is implicated in the case because her intimate relationship with him has raised doubts whether she was the ‘beneficiary’ of laundered money.
The charge sheet itemised the gifts she received from him as:
15 pairs of diamond earrings
5 Birkin bags, Hermes bangles, Louis Vuitton bags and shoes, Gucchi gym wear
A bracelet from Tiffany & Co and Cartier bangles
Rolex watches, diamond studded jewellery sets
An Arabian horse worth 5.6 million Indian rupees
4 Persian cats each worth 900,000 Indian rupees
A MINI Cooper which she claims was returned
On top of all these presents which amount to over Rs.100m or in Lankan rupees to over 250 million, she used to visit showrooms of luxury designer bags, clothes, shoes and other items from where she would send Chandrasekhar a list of the items she wanted. He, in turn, would pay for them and got them delivered to her either in person or through his aides.
And that’s not all. Her siblings too were in the deal. Jacqueline’s sister Geraldine who lives in the States received US$ 150,000 and was also presented with a BMW while her brother was given US$ 50,000.
If that was not enough for him to play Happy Families, even her parents cashed in on Chandrasekhar’s largess. They were given two sports cars, one a Masserati and the other a Porsche.
Jacqueline had appeared before India’s Enforcement Directorate in October this year for questioning in connection with Chandrasekhar’s extortion racket, after having skipped the meeting thrice earlier. She had appeared once before in August and recorded her statement under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in the case. On December 5 she was stopped at Mumbai Airport from boarding a Muscat bound flight after Enforcement Directorate had issued a lockout order for her and summoned to New Delhi where was questioned for over five hours.
Born and raised in Bahrain, Jacqueline who comes from a multi Eurasian family of Sri Lankan, Canadian and Malaysian descent, graduated from being a model to hit the big time in Bollywood making her film debut in 2009 with the fantasy film Aladin. After a 12 year wait, her genie seems to have finally appeared to answer her every wish this year but only to leave her in a grubby soup at the end of it, though Rs.100 million richer.
However, despite the photograph of Jacqueline smooching Chandrasekhar going viral three weeks ago, the Bollywood actress has continued to deny she was in any relationship with him.
No doubt, his lavish gifts – which will dry up no sooner if he’s jailed – were purely acts out of philanthropy. Now that Jacqueline has agreed with the Enforcement Directorate to ‘completely cooperate with the agency in the investigations’ and turned Judas, he may find his altruism boomeranging to crucify him in the dock.