In a high-profile scam, a 52-year-old investment banker from Mumbai fell prey to an elaborate art fraud, losing ₹18 crores on counterfeit paintings.
The victim, Puneet Bhatiya, reported the incident to the police on Monday, stating that the scam occurred between January and May 2022. Bhatiya was introduced to a man named Vishwang Desai, a partner at Desai and Diwanji, who later introduced him to Rajesh Rajpal, an alleged art dealer at Art India International, at a party.
Bhatiya was swindled into purchasing 11 supposed masterpieces from Rajpal via Desai, shelling out a hefty sum of ₹17.90 crores. The paintings, which were supposedly created by celebrated artists like Manjit Bawa and Francis Newton Souza, were later found to be fake.
The scam was uncovered when one of Bhatiya’s friends pointed out the forgery. Despite several attempts to confront Desai and Rajpal, they evaded his questions and failed to return his money.
Bhatiya has provided the police with copies of the sales bill, notarized stamp papers, and certificates of authenticity, all allegedly forged by Desai and Rajpal. A case has been registered against Desai and Rajpal under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code.
The story was originally published on the Free Press Journal.
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