How Siddhartha may have doused Veerappan fire for SM Krishna

VG Siddhartha, Cafe Coffee Day, founder, son-in-law, SM Krishna, Karnataka, chief minister, BS Yediyurappa, Mangaluru, The Federal, English news website
VG Siddhartha, the founder of Café Coffee Day. Photo: Twitter.

Nineteen years ago, on July 30, 2000, when sandalwood smuggler Veerappan abducted late Kannada film actor Rajkumar, he shook the state and the nation. Soon after, protests erupted across Karnataka and life in IT city Bengaluru came to a standstill. Businesses and schools were shut for almost a week and the movement of essential supplies was obstructed by angry fans.

Veerappan, who held Rajkumar hostage, demanded a ransom from the Karnataka government, which was headed by SM Krishna. However, after keeping him for 108 days, the forest brigand released the 72-year-old star without any explanation.

While it cast doubt on the release, Rajkumar owed his freedom to a doctor for warning his captor of the actor’s weakening pulse. On its part, the government said it did not pay any ransom. But rumours ran contrary, saying the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu paid a secret ransom.

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The dust settled for the time being, but two years later, the director general of police C Dinakar, who played a crucial role in the special task force formed to rescue Rajkumar, ruffled feathers when he came out with a book ‘Veerappan’s Prize catch: Rajkumar’, in which he said that Coffee Day Enterprises founder VG Siddhartha, the son-in-law of SM Krishna, who was reported missing on Monday and later found dead, had a role in the release of the actor.

Dinakar claimed that Siddhartha arranged the ransom to be paid to the forest brigand. According to The Frontline, Dinakar, in his 318-page book revealed that the SM Krishna government paid ₹5 crore in two installments through Siddhartha, besides paying another ₹10 crore through various other emissaries.

Siddhartha, however, denied the report and filed a Rs 50 lakh defamation case against Dinakar in November 2002, only for it to be dismissed by the court. Following the release of the book, Dinakar had sought protection from the governor, fearing threat to his life and property.

Interestingly, the money paid as ransom was allegedly linked to Abdul Karim Telgi’s stamp paper scam. According to The Telegraph, former assistant commissioner of police TG Sangram Singh who was arrested by the CBI in the stamp paper scam revealed that the money paid as ransom was routed through Siddhartha.

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The officer who gave a blow-by-blow account said he spotted Telgi at the residence of Siddhartha in 2000, after Rajkumar’s abduction. “The money was collected from Siddhartha’s house and transferred to a vehicle that went to Chennai,” the officer had said.

Thereafter, Singh established links with Telgi and Siddhartha, when he said he spotted Lala, a big businessman from Mumbai, at Siddhartha’s residence. Lala was connected in the stamp paper scam, according to Singh.

Telgi and seven others were arrested in 2004 in the multi-crore fake stamp paper case. He used to print duplicate stamp papers of various denominations in bulk and gave them to banks, insurance companies, stock brokerage firms, and corporate houses. Telgi died in 2017, and others were acquitted last year due to lack of evidence.

Faced with allegations of having links with Telgi, Roshan Baig, the then-Karnataka minister for small industries in the SM Krishna ministry, had resigned from the post.

But there was no formal investigation on the alleged ransom paid to Veerappan and no one had a clue on where the money came from. The government, as well as the actor, kept mum and laid the matter to rest.