27th February, Mumbai: Estate agent and broker Waseem Shaikh from Malwani in suburban Mumbai who was arrested in July last year by the Mumbai police on a complaint filed by actor Gehana Vasisht, had, in association with another absconding accused Sujata Shetty cheated and conned more than 20 flat owners in the Malad – Malwani area including a producer, actors and filmmakers, senior police officials said on Saturday.
Shaikh was arrested by the Malwani police station – after the complainant’s long struggle with the law – initially the cops were not ready to register an FIR and termed it a civil matter. It was only when the complainant actor Gehana Vasisth met the former Mumbai police commissioner did the cops register the FIR and attempt to arrest Shaikh.
Shaikh’s bail application was rejected by the Dindoshi Sessions court in December last year and the police are on the look out for his accomplices who are absconding.
Sources said that Shaikh has connived with at least three other brokers, one online registration agent and others to con more than 20 flat owners by promising them additional returns if they rented out their flat through him. Induced by Shaikh’s offer, several flat owners handed over their flats to be “managed” by Shaikh’s on the promise of certain fixed monthly ‘rents’, which were regular for the first few months. Later on the ‘rents’ stopped coming and Shaikh went underground.
According to a report in a prominent national newspaper, on July 3 last year, actor Gehana Vasisth aka Vandana Tiwari alleged that she had bought the flat in 2018 in the MHADA colony for ₹59 lakh and intended to rent it out. “I used to visit a medical store owned or run by Shaikh who told me that he was an estate agent and would help me rent out the flat,” she said.
However, on winning her trust, Shaikh and his woman accomplice Sujata Shetty forged the documents, claiming to be the owners and rented out the flat to a third party on a high deposit of Rs 17 lakh. Shetty is absconding and her whereabouts are not known.
After a protracted battle in the courts, including the Bombay High Court, Gehana managed to get her flat back, but there are nearly 20 other victims who have been deprived of their hard-earned property by Shaikh who forged documents with the help of an online registration agent and rented out the properties on a high deposit.
One police official claimed that the total amount siphoned off by Shaikh could be in the range of Rs 2 crore. In the case of Gehana’s flat it was Rs 17 lakh. Shaikh has collected varying amounts ranging from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 22 lakh from various parties, based on forged documents.
Although he is now behind bars, the other victims are still running from pillar to post to recover their properties.
In most cases, the police are hesitant to register an FIR and the accused manage to get bail eventually, after spending a few months in jail.
A film producer, two male actors and several shop owners have been similarly cheated by Shaikh and have lost hope of getting their hard-earned property as the recovery process is extremely cumbersome and expensive.