SRINAGAR: Forget Amitabh Bachan starrer `Bunty aur Bubli’, meet the real-life avatar of Bunty who has conned Jammu and Kashmir government in the name of former Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Sandeep Koul, a resident of Jammu, has been charge-sheeted by Crime Branch for faking signatures and letterheads of late Swaraj and Mehbooba to procure Helicopter tickets from Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) to extract money from the gullible pilgrims.

Owner of `Desh Pradesh Tour and Travels’, Koul has been conning the government with precision until his fraud was detected in 2017.

“Onkar Singh, Deputy Divisional Manager (Operations) SMVDSB, lodged a complaint in Police Station, Katra against an imposter. It was alleged that their protocol wing has been receiving letters for helicopter tickets. The accused using fake ID had sought favour from the Shrine Board after forging official letterhead of former External Affairs Minister and appended her scanned signatures of”, said a spokesman of the Crime Branch.

Police immediately swung into action and registered a case in Police Station Katra. Later sensing the gravity of the crime, the case was transferred to the Crime Branch, Jammu, for a thorough investigation. “The case was blind in nature. However, during investigation documentary, oral, electronic and scientific evidence were collected. Charges of passing fake letters as genuine were proved against the accused,” said the spokesperson.

Koul’s escapades did not end here. Finding himself in a fix, Koul switched gears and started sending forged recommendation letters of Mehbooba to SMVDSB when she was chief minister seeking chopper tickets on a priority basis.

Khalid Jahangir, the then additional secretary to the Home Department, in a written complaint to Crime Branch Jammu, alleged that some fraudulent person had prepared fake DO letter purportedly under the forged signatures of Mehbooba asking for arranging helicopter tickets for his clients to perform darshan at Mata Vaishno Devi Holy Cave Shrine on April 27 and 28, 2017.

“Instant case was registered by Crime Branch, Jammu. Electronic trails were tracked to crack the blind case. Documentary, oral, electronic and scientific evidence helped investigating officer to establish charges of preparing fake priority letters and passing them as genuine with criminal intention,” said the Crime Branch spokesman.

Two years later, Crime Branch has filed two separate charge sheets against Koul in the court of Sub-Judge Katraand, Jammu under different sections of law including fraud and forgery.

Ishfaq Ul Hassan

An accredited journalist with 22 years of professional experience, Ishfaq-Ul-Hassan has worked as a reporter based in Kashmir for two decades. He has covered various beats including militancy, politics, defence, minorities, social issues, religious groups and women issues in Kashmir. He had previously worked as Special Correspondent in Jammu and Kashmir for DNA (Daily News and Analysis) Newspaper for 13 years. Ishfaq is also associated with the New Delhi- based television company `Asia Pacific Communication Associates’ which produced the famous series “Subah-Bakhar-Kashmir” for satellite Kashmir channel of Doordarshan. In 2004, he was awarded the Charkha-Sanjoy Ghosh Fellowship for Peace and Development for his research on families divided across the LOC in Kashmir.

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