In his speeches, Jawahar Balakumar – alias Jawahar Shukra – sounds like your regular, mediocre tech bro. “There’s no RR, there’s no Merc, there’s no Audi – nothing. Even Ambassador is Ambassador, even a Padmini is a Padmini, even RR is RR. Everyone has their own unique identity, so you put up your identity outside, that is what I always say to all,” he declared, to applause, at the Impact tech fest held at JNTU Hyderabad in January 2017. “If someone says you’re good for nothing, say yes, I’m good for nothing. At least I’m useful for that,” he added. Like most ‘motivational content’, his words seem to have impact when heard by a crowd of teenagers – but on a closer look, make zero sense.
Perhaps it was this ability to blend in to the tech bro/business bro crowd that helped the fraudster ‘husband from hell’ get away for so long. The 32-year-old, who is currently lodged in the Vishakapatnam Central Jail, for sexual assault, criminal intimidation, cheating, and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, has police cases against him dating back to at least 2013, across four south Indian states. Yet, he escaped justice – and in fact, was hiding in plain sight, pretending to be a venture capitalist and hotel owner out to help students. He appeared in a Kannada show as a judge, he claimed to own a non-existent cricket team as part of a non-existent cricket league.
TNM has found that Jawahar – who has married and cheated several women over the years – has also cases against him alleging that he looted lakhs of rupees along the way from investors and acquaintances. But a lack of interstate coordination between several police departments has meant he went scot free for years on end.
When ‘Jack’ defrauded a philanthropist
The earliest case TNM could trace against Jawahar dates back to 2013, in Chennai.
Mudasir (name changed) had moved from Dubai to Chennai in 2011 to set up a vocational training institute to train young people in the field of optometry. “I had been living in the Middle East for many years, working in the optometry field. I wanted to do something meaningful back in India, having been born and raised in Chennai. I set up a social enterprise that trains young people from socially and economically backward communities, who could not complete their high school education. It was a non-profit enterprise, so I did not demand money from the students. As the cost of running became high and my other revenue sources waned, towards the end of 2012, I decided to rent out some of the institute space in Periyamedu. That is when I first met Jawahar, or Jack,” says Mudasir, revealing another alias that the fraudster used.
‘Jack’ had responded to Mudasir’s ad, seeking a space to set up his mobile recharge business ‘RJ Ezy Recharge’. “He had a way of creating a sense of trustworthiness about him,” says Mudasir.
According to Mudasir, Jawahar set up a call centre and sales team for his recharge business, and paid the rent for the first couple of months. “I was impressed with the way he ran his operations, hiring staff and managing them efficiently. It’s a different story that eventually none of them got their salaries,” says Mudasir.
Once the business appeared to be running successfully, Jawahar allegedly approached Mudasir, asking him to be his partner. “He said he had businesses in Bengaluru and needed to travel to Mysuru, Kerala etc. often for work, so he needed someone to oversee his business in Chennai. The business seemed to be doing quite well, so I agreed and gave him Rs 10 lakh. I even roped in my brother, who gave him Rs 7 lakh, and a few other friends. In total, he must have taken around Rs 60 lakh from me and my acquaintances.”
But within three months, Mudasir says things began to change. The recharges had begun to fail, and he was left responsible to deal with people’s complaints, while ‘Jack’ stayed away making excuses, saying he was travelling for work. “After a point, he stopped responding and I realised he had absconded, leaving his failed business to me. It was difficult to file a complaint with the police. The cyber crime police offered help by providing his call records and other details, but we were still unable to trace him,” he says.
“We filed a case, and he was arrested. But he got out on bail, missed the court summons, jumped his bail and disappeared. After this experience, I became very disillusioned and returned to Dubai,” says Mudasir.
The motivational startup founder
The next we hear of Jawahar is in 2015, when he married Mamata (name changed) in Chennai, and absconded soon after. He then married Parvathi (name changed) in Hyderabad in November 2016.
And in December the same year, he conducted a startup event in Guru Nanak Institute of Technology in Hyderabad. According to Uday Kumar, who was a B Tech student at AVNIET college in Hyderabad, “Many engineering students attended the event. He said he was an eminent businessperson and venture capitalist, looking for startup ideas to invest in. Many of my friends fell for his lies. He took amounts ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh from students, saying it was some kind of fees for initial processes and paperwork. They never saw him or their money again.”
Jawahar also visited a few other institutes, including KL University in Guntur, Rathinam College in Coimbatore and JNTU Hyderabad, where he attended the college tech fest ‘Impact’, presenting himself as a venture capitalist looking to meet startup aspirants. Here, he met Ramya and Vinay (names changed), two unsuspecting students whom he later used to cheat Anu (name changed), and build her trust.
It is on Anu’s complaint that Jawahar is currently in prison – he had met her on a matrimonial site, and at one point he introduced Ramya and Vinay to Anu as his sister and her fiance. But Jawahar was unrelated to them. “The couple had met him at Impact Fest in JNTU Hyderabad in 2017. Since Ramya and Jawahar belong to the same community (Choudhury), Jawahar informally called her his sister, so she didn’t suspect anything right away. Only later did the three of us realise his motives,” Anu tells TNM.
The co-working con
In mid-2017, some of Jawahar’s crimes were catching up with him. While Mamata had filed a complaint against him in Chennai in May, Parvathi filed a case against him in Hyderabad in June.
Bhaskar (name changed) met Jawahar through an old schoolmate called Vivek (name changed), in June 2017. “Vivek had told me a lot about Jawahar. He told me he had been working for him as a manager. Vivek was completely in awe of him. He truly believed that Jawahar was some kind of a genius visionary entrepreneur,” says Bhaskar.
“I have an MBA but I earn money through odd jobs and farming. I was looking to open a franchise store,” says Bhaskar.
According to Bhaskar, Jawahar offered him an ’investment opportunity’ worth Rs 10 lakh. When Bhaskar said it was a huge amount for him, Jawahar turned impatient and told him that if he couldn’t arrange the money within a couple of days, he could find many other investors. “He behaved like he was doing me a favour. He told me I would get monthly returns of Rs 1 lakh. He told me all these magical stories and unfortunately, I ended up trusting him,” says Bhaskar.
Bhaskar says that he borrowed money from a few friends and arranged Rs 10 lakh within a week. “He made a huge fuss about having to sign some documents at the Sub Registrar Office, but we didn’t do any of that. He wanted me to use a cash deposit machine to transfer the money. Things were starting to seem strange but I was already in too deep by then,” Bhaskar says.
“At one point, Jawahar noticed that I was becoming suspicious, and afraid that I might influence Vivek, he took me to Delhi. He said he had bought some property to be rented as co-working spaces, which according to him was going to be the next big thing. Actually, it was this really cramped building near Vikas Marg. He left me there and went to Hyderabad because his wife Parvathi had filed a police complaint against him. I was really depressed and barely had money to buy food,” says Bhaskar.
This was when Jawahar was arrested by the Alwal police in June 2017 Parvathi’s case. According to Bhaskar, Jawahar went to Hyderabad, where he was arrested, and then got out on bail and returned to Delhi. “He came back and told me he needed Rs 2.5 lakh to transfer the Rs 10 lakh I had earlier given him in the form of shares. Then he showed me an email about some savings scheme where he had invested Rs 80 crore, which had now appreciated to Rs 300 crore. He told me he needed Rs 5 lakh more to pay some fees to be able to collect the amount, from which he promised to give me Rs 1.7 crore. I was very reluctant to give money but he was very coercive and convincing,” he says.
Bhaskar claims that Jawahar took Rs 17 lakh from him in total. After repeatedly asking Jawahar to return the money, including several unpleasant exchanges and threats from Jawahar to back off, Bhaskar only received Rs 50,000 in June 2018. “Even Vivek lost Rs 35 lakh to him, and Vivek’s in-laws lost another Rs 35 lakh. After Vivek and I filed a complaint at the Whitefield police station in December 2018, he called me and threatened to finish me off with all his political connections. Finally, he sent us Rs 9 lakh through his lawyer and asked us to withdraw our complaints. I kept hoping he would return more money, but Anu called me in March and told me he was arrested,” says Bhaskar.
When the crimes started closing in
In February 2018, Radhika (name changed) says Jawahar met her brother, a multiplex manager, in Coimbatore. “He would call my brother to book screens for private viewings and parties. After meeting a few times, he took my brother to a coffee shop and told him that he was an eminent businessman owning almost 90 hotels around the world. He told him he was opening an eatery in California and was planning to hire a staff of 70 members. He wanted to hire my brother as a staff trainer and manager, since he was in a similar job at the multiplex. He promised to arrange his visa and tickets and took Rs 6.5 lakh from him. He took Rs 2 lakh at first, but then he kept making excuses for delays and kept asking for more money giving different reasons.”
Radhika, who lives in the US, says she saw Jawahar’s videos on the internet and thought he seemed trustworthy. She sent the money her brother asked for, hoping he would be able to move to the US and work there. “Slowly, I grew suspicious because no progress was happening, and we had given him a lot of money. I became a little suspicious and looked him up again online. I saw a post against him on a consumer complaint forum, and realised my suspicions were right. I broke down crying,” says Radhika.
The post that Radhika had found was made by Mudasir back in 2013, when Jawahar was on the run after cheating him.
Radhika says she didn’t want him to find out that she had discovered the truth, because she was afraid he would block her and her brother and abscond again. “My brother went to the Peelamedu police station and filed a complaint, but it didn’t help. I stayed in contact with him, pretending I had friends who needed help with their visas. He confidently said he would get the job done within Rs 2 lakh. When we spoke, I realised he knew nothing about even the types of visas that exist.”
“Finally, we hired a Private Investigator who got us his call data records. It was not ethical or legal, but we were left with no other choice. The police said that all our emails and bank transactions and WhatsApp screenshots did not constitute enough evidence. I contacted a few other men and women whom he had cheated. Once he realised we were closing in on him, he got upset and threatened and abused us, but he eventually got scared and returned our money. He returned the last instalment in June 2018,” says Radhika.
TNM spoke to two other men, Madhav and Prakash (names changed), who were also victims of Jawahar’s financial fraud. Madhav, who was forced to buy a second hand Audi for Jawahar and was promised to be made a business partner in return for his investments, claimed a loss of Rs 64 lakh in a complaint to the Chennai Commissioner of Police. Prakash, who rented his hotel properties in Ulsoor to Jawahar in early 2018, has filed a complaint with the Halasuru police station claiming losses over a bounced check worth Rs 12.8 lakh.
Lack of interstate police coordination
In spite of a considerable online presence, Jawahar repeatedly escaped from the police, making tall claims and having people believe them. He even seems to have registered a company called Jawahar Shukra Ventures India Private Limited. He got away with dropping names of powerful politicians and celebrities, claiming he was related to them.
And yet, despite all of these complaints and testimonies, Visakhapatnam III Town CI says that the investigation against Jawahar is being carried on Anu’s complaint alone.
According to Seema Agarwal, Additional Director General of Tamil Nadu State Crime Records Bureau, a database of all complaints filed in the past against an accused is available to all police stations. “For the past four to five years, police stations are able to access past FIRs filed against any accused, based on name searches. The name has to match exactly, so they may have to try all possible combinations and spellings. While police may not always search for records from other states, it is certainly expected that they do a search of records within the state,” says Seema.
Which raises the question of why police officials in Chennai, Hyderabad, and other cities did not do the same.
ST Ramesh, former Karnataka DGP, says that the way forward would ideally be to publicise the accused’s information and invite any other grievances, including complaints that have already been registered. “The database may not be entirely comprehensive and foolproof. If the incident is properly published by the police who have arrested him, information about other cases can come to light. Then, the CID’s of each state can conduct an integrated investigation of cases from within their state, exchange information with CIDs of the other states, and file the comprehensive reports to courts in respective jurisdiction,” ST Ramesh said.
Anu says she has been trying her best to take the case to central investigation agencies so that an integrated investigation can be carried out based on all of Jawahar’s crimes across states, and his victims are accorded justice. It certainly seems that without active involvement and initiative of the state agencies concerned, con men like Jawahar may be able to get away with their crimes time and again with impunity.