How to use a scamster's intelligence

How to use a scamster's intelligence

Actor Anirudh takes a look at Harshad Mehta's story and it's impact

'Scam 1992 -The Harshad Mehta Story', based on the businessman's life has received critical acclaim.

Almost three decades ago, while I was pursuing my studies in Mumbai, I heard the word ‘scam’ for the very first time.

Only a few kilometers away from my college, at the Bombay Stock Exchange, a scam worth Rs 10,000 cr (in today’s context, worth around Rs 24,000 cr) took place. The entire nation reeled in shock. Twenty eight years have passed since, but the name of the scamster still remains etched in people’s memory: Harshad Mehta.

I recently watched a highly rated web series ‘Scam 1992 -The Harshad Mehta Story’. It has been adapted from journalist Sucheta Dalal and Debashish Basu’s book, ‘The Scam: Who Won, Who Lost, Who Got Away’. 

Right off the bat, Achhit Thakkar’s title music sets the tone for the series. The magnificently directed web series by Hansal Mehta and Jai Mehta starring the exceptionally impressive Pratik Gandhi as Harshad Mehta captivates the audience as they get sucked into the black hole of the stock exchange world.

Harshad’s life story is stunning and heart-wrenching. A lower middle class BCom graduate, who knew nothing about stock exchange, enters the field as a jobber.

He quickly learns the ropes and earns the title of ‘Big Bull’ and ‘Amitabh Bachchan of stock exchange’. A rags to riches story like no other, he was the owner of a sea facing 15,000 square feet penthouse with a mini golf course and swimming pool in Worli, a posh area of Mumbai and some of the most expensive cars of the time, including a Lexus LS400. 

But his destiny changes course quite quickly. The ‘Securities and Exchange Board of India’ (SEBI) banned him for life from stock market-related activities and was also sent to a criminal custody after several cases of fraud were registered against him. His story ended quite  abruptly when died at the local Civil Hospital at the age of forty seven. 

Harshad Mehta’s story leaves one with a whole lot of questions. Wasn’t the system responsible for it’s already existing loopholes, which he intelligently made use of? Did he get caught, as he once said, because he was Harshad Mehta, a man who people from all corners were jealous and envious of? Was his fall rooted in political insecurity? 

Unfortunately, there are no clear answers. More importantly, there are questions no one seemed to ask. Couldn’t our country use his brilliance to find out loopholes in the banking and stock exchange transaction systems and use it to improve the system? Though SEBI came up with new rules to cover the loopholes that Mehta took advantage of, there are always loopholes to find.

Wouldn’t Mehta’s thirst for acquiring knowledge be used to keep a continuous check on the system?

The effort would not have been so novel. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (USA) has used the skill of Frank William Abagnale Jr, a master cheque forger, in catching other check forgers and appointed him as a consultant for the FBI academy and field offices — a story we have all become familiar with thanks to the 2002 film ‘Catch Me If You Can’. 

Why couldn’t our country think of such initiatives? Maybe, if Harshad was given such an opportunity, maybe he would not have had a heart attack. And may be the Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi scams or the likes would never have happened.

(The author is an actor, singer, writer and director)