Home > Indian Scams > Cobbler Scam

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There is no end for corruption in India, for by the time one is brought to light another one starts somewhere. One of the biggest scams that has happened in the Indian history is the Cobbler scam which involves money worth several multi million dollars. This was most popularly discussed as the Great Cobber scam. The cobbler scam revolved around a number of political heads and even top businessmen siphoned off lot of illegal money into their own account which is a huge figure of about $600 million US dollars. This money was actually allotted by the government of India especially for the benefit and the well being of the poor cobblers of Mumbai. But unfortunately the money was mostly swindled by the above mentioned group of people for their enrichment of life to build posh houses and to improve their lifestyle to the best.

The Government of India designed this scheme which was meant to provide loans to the poor cobblers at a very low rate of interest and tax modification for even after 16 hours of work they ended up earning only 80- 100 rupees per day. However this scheme did not favor them for not a single penny reached them. The cause of action and the method of working behind the cobbler's scheme were to activate a cooperative society which would enable the cobblers to make use of the advantage of soft government loans with the different types of schemes which was available. But the politicians and the top business heads just to make use of these soft loans came up with a number of bogus small companies and societies.Some of the main people who were involved in the cobbler scam were Saddrudin Daya, former sheriff of Mumbai and owner of Dawood Shoes, Rafique Tejani, owner of Metro Shoes, Kishore Signapurkar, proprietor of Milano Shoes, and Abu Asim Azmi, president of Samajwadi Party's Mumbai unit and partner in Citywalk Shoes. Apart from these people the multi million dollars cobbler scam also involved various officials of banks and financial institutions like Maharashtra State Finance Corporation, Citibank, Bank of Oman, Dena Bank, Development Credit Bank, Saraswat Co-operative Bank, and Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait who all held a very responsible position and were highly reputed.

The primary accused in the multi-crores shoe scam is Sohin Daya, son of former Sheriff of Mumbai. The money involved in the cobbler scam is worth of $600 million US dollars which is one of the biggest scam that happened in India and the most sad part of the scam is that the poorest people of the society were cheated and benefit was reaped by the rich and the elite people. The top people involved in the cobbler scam namely Daya of Dawood Shoes, Rafique Tejani of Metro Shoes and Kishore Signapurkar of Milano Shoes carried out their activities by forming fabricated or imaginary cooperative societies for cobblers. Once these fictious cooperative societies were created the main heads involved in the scam made use of the scheme for fraudulent activities for availing loans of crores and crores of rupees from different banks which supported the cobber scam. There was also lot of bank officials who were involved in the issue of the government granted money for the illegal purpose. These banks and also bank officials were also later identified and charge sheeted. The cobbler scam was unearthed and came to light in 1995. Nearly 3 big agencies worked hard to expose the big shots involved in the cobbler scam to the public which involved Rs 1600-crore.

The investigation started based on the complaint filed by the officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's octroi department when they realized there was enormous quantity of raw materials which were brought into the Mumbai city on an extremely huge scale. The duty which was levied on these materials was at considerable concessions as they were into the city in the name of the fictitious cooperative societies which were formed by the people involved in the scam. Thus once the complaint was lodged the police from its side started to probe their investigation. As a result of the investigation one of the officers in the Registrar of Cooperative Societies who was more keen on conscientiousness in his work and duties made up his mind and decided to do a thorough and a complete survey of all the registered cobbler societies in Mumbai. In 1995, Sudhir Thakre, the then joint registrar of the Cooperative Society for Mumbai division who just then took in charge gave an authoritative instruction to do a complete survey of all the registered societies which came under the Mumbai division. Not a single society was missed out from this survey.

The survey stated that the officials from Sudhir Thakre's office who were especially auditors of each of these societies complained that most of these societies did not exist at the registered addresses furnished attached to this office. During an exclusive interview to Express Newsline Sudhir Thakre stated that the series of actions or steps taken in the investigation into the big business way to success through fictitious cobbler societies. Thakre also narrated that since most of the cobblers were from a poor and uneducated background they did not want to harrass them in the name of investigation. But however because of the fact or quality of being more merciful or tolerant from the Registrar's part was misused by the businessman who were all involved in the cobbler scam. So Sudhir Thakre decided to survey and investigate all the cooperative societies which were formed. Also at the same time a Bicycle Manufacturing Company lodged a complaint to the police stating that lot of raw materials used in the manufacture of shoe making worth around two crores were brought into the city.

Then it was discovered that these materials were subjected to octroi concessions. Thus taking this complaint into consideration the police along with few other agencies started their investigation and were surprised to see that most of the cobblers' societies which were found in the papers were missing. However by January 1996 there was a clear picture given regarding the scam when flying squads with the registrar were given specific orders to follow a particular society to its very last. Based on the evidence of first impression, a report was prepared by the police towards March 1996. Apart from Sudhir Thakre's team, the then Economic Offences Wing headed by DCP Sanjay Pandey was also worked on the Cobblers scam. After completion of about 19 raids and 51 societies were being investigated detailed reports of nearly 80 to 90 pages were ready by September 1996.

Some of the political parties who were implicated in the scam where from three major political parties like the Congress, the BJP and the Shiv Sena. Top politicians from these three major parties were involved in the disgracefully bad swindling of public money under the attire of setting up cooperative societies for poor cobblers. Some of the top people who were included in the investigations were the former Maharashtra chief minister, Sharad Pawar. However it is also stated that in spite of no direct evidence implicating the Congress leader, investigations have revealed Tejani to be a director of the Rs500-crore Dynamix Dairy Products Pvt Ltd in which Pawar is believed to have a stake through the holdings of family members. Also from various findings it was discovered that Baramati Milk Cooperative which was headed by Pawar was the sole milk supplier for Dynamix. Thus it is believed that most of the money which came from the scam had gone into Dynamix.

Though the link of Pawar in this scam remains very weak, the other fact which is very clear was that it was during Pawar's period all this happened and Sushil Kumar Shinde, chief of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC), floated the Chakrayu society which refused to obey every rule in the book. Once the inquiry was done some of the reputed shops like Dawood, Metro, Milano, Citywalk and few others were all sealed and were opened only after a long battle. Most of the accused involved in the shoe scam are all out in bail. The case is still waiting in queue for trial. The Economic Offences Wing of the police department has filed more than seven charge-sheets against 28 accused in the Rs 1,600-crore cobbler scam at the 37th metropolitan court. One of the other main accused in the shoe scam apart from the prime accused Sadruddin Daya was his wife Shauheen.

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