The economic offences wing (EOW) of the Delhi Police on Tuesday said they have arrested a 70-year-old con man, who has been on the run for nearly 16 years to evade arrest in a case of cheating and forgery registered in 2006.
In all, there are four cases against Pradeep Paliwal alias Mahesh Gupta, registered in Delhi and Gurugram and also by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) between 2006 and 2018, EOW officers said.
His associate, Vinayak Bhatt, who was wanted by the CBI in the same case, was also arrested with him from near Cross River Mall in east Delhi’s Karkardooma on Monday. Bhatt was later handed over to the CBI, the police said.
Officers said Paliwal was evading arrest for the past 16 years in one of the cases registered in Gurugram in 2006, and, during that time, he allegedly committed the other three cheating and forgeries to siphon off nearly ₹100 crore. His victims included individual investors, banks and even a state government, police said.
Four teams of the EOW worked on technical and manual surveillance for over a year to finally locate and arrest the con man on Monday afternoon. Paliwal is also under the scanner of the enforcement directorate (ED), said joint commissioner of police (EOW) Chhaya Sharma.
“To evade arrest in the cases, the elderly fugitive remained on alert and never stayed in a particular place for more than 24 hours. He kept shuttling between his hideouts in Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan in his SUV (a Pajero) registered in the name of his business partner. He never travelled by flight as a lookout circular (LOC) is out for his arrest. He was using a Telegram account, connected with an unknown internet source, and also used WhatsApp accounts on the mobile number from Zimbabwe,” said Sharma.
Speaking about one of the cases against Palawal, police said in January 2014, he had allegedly induced a woman named Shakuntala Devi to invest ₹20 crore in his granite mining business in Rajasthan after assuring her monthly returns of ₹50 lakh. But Paliwal did not pay her the promised returns and duped the woman of ₹20 crore, and fled with nearly ₹17 crore, police said. Devi filed a police complaint and it was converted to an FIR by the EOW, Sharma said.
“Our investigating teams kept tracking his movements, identified his internet source and found that the phone numbers he used were registered to fake IDs. The teams were stationed in Bengaluru, Rajasthan, and Delhi. We finally traced the suspect to a luxury hotel in Shahdara. The Pajero SUV he was travelling in was found parked at the hotel. The teams caught him as soon as he left the hotel with Bhatt,” said Sharma.
Police said the first case against him was registered in 2006 at Gurugram’s Udyog Vihar police station over fraudulently registering a Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation plot in his name using forged papers.
In 2007, he started the granite mining business in the name of Holystar Infra Limited in Rajasthan with an office in Delhi. In 2015, he obtained a loan of ₹12 crore from a private bank on an already mortgaged property. A case regarding this was lodged at Karol Bagh police station.
In 2018, the CBI registered a case as his loan account became a non-profit asset (NPA) due to non-payment of a loan of ₹28 crore, the police said.