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Top 10 Corruption Scams in India

This is the season of scams and the biggest ever corruption cases in India have been unearthed more recently. So, we decided to dig deep to see which scams were the biggest and most damaging to the country and its citizens alike.

In our daily life, most of us must have been a witness to or a victim of the corruption thriving in some or the other part of the country. It could be in the form of a taxi-driver manipulating the meter to jack-up the reading or a government officer taking bribery to promptly transfer your file to the next department or even yourself offering bribe to a traffic police on breaking a signal.

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An average Indian citizen is hard working and diligent, but it is the people in charge of the system (The Babu’s) or with whom the power lays, that act as a cancer spreading the venom, slowing down progress and what all not. But, somewhere down the line, we ourselves are responsible for allowing and being taken for a ride by these people, aren’t we?

However, it is during a multi-thousand crore scam, that a tax-payer actually realizes the heartburn of being cheated from his valued contribution of funds towards the development and well-being of the nation. But, that’s what a scam, be it big or small, means – the act of swindling by some fraudulent scheme or action.

The Top Scams in India

1) 2G Spectrum Scam

We have had a number of scams in India; but none bigger than the scam involving the process of allocating unified access service licenses. At the heart of this Rs.1.76-lakh crore worth of scam is the former Telecom minister A Raja – who according to the CAG, has evaded norms at every level as he carried out the dubious 2G license awards in 2008 at a throw-away price which were pegged at 2001 prices.

2) Commonwealth Games Scam

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Another feather in the cap of Indian scandal list is Commonwealth Games loot. Yes, literally a loot! Even before the long awaited sporting bonanza could see the day of light, the grand event was soaked in the allegations of corruption. It is estimated that out of Rs. 70000 crore spent on the Games, only half the said amount was spent on Indian sportspersons.

The Central Vigilance Commission, involved in probing the alleged corruption in various Commonwealth Games-related projects, has found discrepancies in tenders – like payment to non-existent parties, will-ful delays in execution of contracts, over-inflated price and bungling in purchase of equipment through tendering – and misappropriation of funds.

3) Telgi Scam

As they say, every scam must have something unique in it to make money out of it in an unscrupulous manner- and Telgi scam had all the suspense and drama that the scandal needed to thrive and be busted.

Abdul Karim Telgi had mastered the art of forgery in printing duplicate stamp papers and sold them to banks and other institutions. The tentacles of the fake stamp and stamp paper case had penetrated 12 states and was estimated at a whooping Rs. 20000 crore plus. The Telgi clearly had a lot of support from government departments that were responsible for the production and sale of high security stamps.

4) Satyam Scam

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The scam at Satyam Computer Services is something that will shatter the peace and tranquillity of Indian investors and shareholder community beyond repair. Satyam is the biggest fraud in the corporate history to the tune of Rs. 14000 crore.

The company’s disgraced former chairman Ramalinga Raju kept everyone in the dark for a decade by fudging the books of accounts for several years and inflating revenues and profit figures of Satyam. Finally, the company was taken over by the Tech Mahindra which has done wonderfully well to revive the brand Satyam.

5) Bofors Scam

The Bofors scandal is known as the hallmark of Indian corruption. The Bofors scam was a major corruption scandal in India in the 1980s; when the then PM Rajiv Gandhi and several others including a powerful NRI family named the Hindujas, were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB for winning a bid to supply India’s 155 mm field howitzer.

The Swedish State Radio had broadcast a startling report about an undercover operation carried out by Bofors, Sweden’s biggest arms manufacturer, whereby $16 million were allegedly paid to members of PM Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress.

Most of all, the Bofors scam had a strong emotional appeal because it was a scam related to the defense services and India’s security interests.

6) The Fodder Scam

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If you haven’t heard of Bihar’s fodder scam of 1996, you might still be able to recognize it by the name of “Chara Ghotala ,” as it is popularly known in the vernacular language.

In this corruption scandal worth Rs.900 crore, an unholy nexus was traced involved in fabrication of “vast herds of fictitious livestock” for which fodder, medicine and animal husbandry equipment was supposedly procured.

7) The Hawala Scandal

The Hawala case to the tune of $18 million bribery scandal, which came in the open in 1996, involved payments allegedly received by country’s leading politicians through hawala brokers. From the list of those accused also included Lal Krishna Advani who was then the Leader of Opposition.

Thus, for the first time in Indian politics, it gave a feeling of open loot all around the public, involving all the major political players being accused of having accepted bribes and also alleged connections about payments being channelled to Hizbul Mujahideen militants in Kashmir.

8) IPL Scam

Well, I am running out of time and space over here. The list of scandals in India is just not ending and becoming grave by every decade. Most of us are aware about the recent scam in IPL and embezzlement with respect to bidding for various franchisees. The scandal already claimed the portfolios of two big-wigs in the form of Shashi Tharoor and former IPL chief Lalit Modi.

9,10) Harshad Mehta & Ketan Parekh Stock Market Scam

Although not corruption scams, these have affected many people. There is no way that the investor community could forget the unfortunate Rs. 4000 crore Harshad Mehta scam and over Rs. 1000 crore Ketan Parekh scam which eroded the shareholders wealth in form of big market jolt.

So, can we live a scam-free life in India for a while now?

2G Spectrum Scam Bofors Chara Ghotala CWG Harshad Mehta Indian Scams Ketan Parekh Political corruption scams in india Telgi Top Corruption scandals in India Top Scams in India Top scandal
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About Viral Dholakia

Viral Dholakia is a Freelance writer for financial magazines & is passionate about blogging and Capital Markets. Stay in touch with him at bull4bears-at-yahoo.co.in or on Twitter at @viralsss

294 comments

  1. We have Corruption, Scams, Poverty, Civic Issues etc but its “Not All Bad With India” http://bit.ly/NotallbadIndia

  2. As each year passes ,we see growing trends of scams which certainly india is facing. One of worst kind of scam ,2g spectrum is worst example and even it raises doubt over indian govt..being lazy in taking concrete action against the fraudsters. Thanks for informaion

  3. i think Adarsh Society Scam n Karnataka land scam should also b added to it…….these scams have been such a shame

  4. in these coruption , i think harshad mehta’s scam is more wrong because on that time india’s economic situation was very bad and poor so it was very bad …… Kher GOD IS GREAT

  5. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay

    Nearly all the communities in India (such as Bengali), are succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty’(a theory introduced by an American anthropologist Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is at all ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming parents (mindlessly) only by blindfold self-procreation, simply depriving their (the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour (values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting of those children those are born out of ignorance, real poverty. All of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. Can the Indians (Bengali) ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in their own life/attitude, start themselves ‘Production of Space’ (Henri Lefebvre), at least, initiate a movement, by heart. - Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee lane, Howrah-711101, India.

  6. Dear friend, I want to know in the past how many people got punishment after they are caught in corruption. So many scam surfaces every now and then. The concerned authorities are catching them but what is the result. If they do not get punishment what is the use of catching. I am really disturbed. MADHU.

    • To the best of my knowledge, its an absolute 0. New scams are unearthed everyday and we forget the old scams. Be it Bofors or Kargil coffin scam, it all just goes on and on for eternity. See the plight – a whistleblower from Haryana in the Forest department was so much harassed by his colleagues, seniors, politicians and police that the President had to interfere and quash all orders against him. If such is the state of affairs, its only a wild guess when we will see even a single scam closure with all the goons behind bars under non-bailable warrants or serving life terms.

      • Ashish, quite agree with you… the judiciary system is not empowered to treat these miscreants with tough wordings. They somehow get away too soon without strong penal actions.

        • I don’t think any strict actions will be taken against these people…if the strongest part of country -govt. is included in these types of scams.

    • Madhu, You’re right! At first, it takes years together to displace these miscreants from the system through the judicial process. Once they are proved guilty, the Indian laws are not good enough to grind such culprits completely out of the system. Sad but truth!

      • Rahul Gandhi himself told that it is Indian National Congress , the only political party in India which fights against corruption. Now Lalu Prasad who is convicted and gone to jail, got bail and still indulging in his dirty politics of secularism ( in fact he does know what it is and also corruption ) Only people know that corruption is there in all castes and religions and hence all should fight against it and those supporting it for the sake of votes. It is a pity within few weeks Rahul Gandhi held talks with Lalu and it seems they reached an agreement on seat sharing for outsiders. This is the stance of Congress’s so called Prime Ministerial candidate. No congress man in entire India commented on this. Surely people are observing it . If anybody thins these people will bring trasperency, he is a fool.

    • NONE OF THEM ARE PUNISHED AND SOME HAVE GOT CLEAN CHITS AND SOME HAVE RETIRED AND THEY ARE ALL LEADING ALUXURIOUS LIFE WITH THEIR ILLGOTTEN WEALTH

  7. these people should live with poor people who are leaving in slum arias by collecting wasteand quarelling for food and daily needs,then only they will realise what is poverty why it happennig with people

    • m making a list of indian scams from a-z n searching for scams starting vt alphabet v,w,x and z.if anyone can help pl do

  8. these scandels should be punished in the public place and in full gatherings -that no one cannot do again eny these son of a bich things,

  9. yes, but we need a healthy govt. how can we get it? we want people to think of it in a better manner. Cant we take an action on corrupt people? It is not possible with one man to get corruption free India. It should be done as a team work.as if we think of india and indian people in the freedom movement we have several leaders by whom the people were enlighted and fought with the false govt. we need correct decisions and we need proper leaders to guide the way.

    • This happened to me recently and I think many would relate themselves to my so called “story”. I had to get my voter card renewed/address changed since I recently relocated to another city owing to my job commitments. So I went to the concerned department to get the needful done. The department asked me for an address proof. Now, I relocated to a new city so my passport had the old address (they need an address proof again), I am yet to apply for a landline number (they need an address proof), the department would not accept my mobile bill as a valid document, my private bank statement of my savings account would not be considered either. I leave the department wondering – If I need the voter card to participate in the elections and serve as my address proof how on earth can I go ahead with it? Coming on corruption – Each and every person that I have seen in the government organization is corrupt. They need someone to grease their palms. And yes, the saviors, the police themselves are so corrupt that the less we speak about them, the better it is. Leaders who would really change the face of India and get it to corruption free status have loads of backlog to carry. Often their decisions displeases someone in the “ruling government” and they are left gasping for air. A single window public grievance solution system should be incorporated in all towns and villages. Direct under the control of a team constituting of Home Minister, CAG, Anti corruption bureau reporting to the President. If not, lets choose another Hitler or Mussolini to weed out these corrupt politicians and officials.

  10. yes, but we need a healthy govt. how can we get it? we want people to think of it in a better manner. Cant we take an action on corrupt people? It is not possible with one man to get corruption free India. It should be done as a team work.

    • s sir, u r right, but iam earning weekly 1000 rupees, sometimes this amount also not even get. i am living with my wife two kids my father and mother, how can i think about my scam eroded country. first i have to think about my family. we all poor peoples get tired about the selection of good people on the eve of election. So all we are ready to fucked up again and again, ready to beg even roadside also.

  11. New year has started with old beginnings.Politics,scams & Cricket dominate r headlines again. http://bit.ly/IPL2011

  12. Nice compilation. Just my two cents – DSQ , Enron and the Golden Forest Scam should find their way in the list of the top 10. There is hardly any branch or stream that is untouched by scams. However, the worse part is that no matter how many scams are unearthed, justice is hardly served. And when it is finally served (lucky few!) most of the recipients have already bid farewell to this world and others are too old to even remember what the scam was.

  13. Scams as long as they not detected or spoken of will pass on as normal works. So far we are seeing in papers about 2G scam, CWG scam etc. But there is a much bigger scam that is going to unfirl very soon connected to Banking industry – involving various facets like recruitment, take over of fraud accounts by other public sector Banks from the affected public sector Bank etc. The new master mind frauds that are played but veteran vigilance agencies that are closing their eyes are on take over scams in public sector Banks. I can quote a small example. A fraud account is financed by a public sector bank and the sanctioning authority knows it is a fraud account. The account operates for an year or two and when the fraud is detected, another public sector bank takes over the account and the sanctioning authority in the previous Bank is not questioned as the account is fully adjusted in his bank. Only as an eye wash they catch hold of the poor Branch Manager, who becomes a scape goat in the entire episode. Bank donot pursue the matter as there is no monetary loss to the Bank. The borrower repeats the same feat in the next Bank and the process continues. This only indicates that there is a consortium of top Bank executives of public sector banks who protect each other in this wily way. It is time CBI / CVC should look into all these cases of take over accounts even when the accounts are closed. Probably we may unearth a much bigger scam than Teclecom / 2G scam. Apart from this after disbanding of BSRB, some of the public sector banks are involved in large scale recruitment scams which need to be impartially be probed by CBI & CVC.

  14. Hi Viral, Good compilation, I believe the list of scams in India is so long that figuring out top 10 of those would have been a really difficult task, The Neera Radia case & the Adarsh society case are the limelights these days.. Corruption is an inseperable part of India, i feel sad to write but we are living in a society where govt knows how to extract money from commoners & leave no stone unturned to dupe them The amount of tax that we pay each day on every money we spend helps in increasing Mayawati’s yearly income to crores .. A common man is left with nothing, he cannot even fill in a DDA form n expect transparency in the results for allotments. The country is being put to shame, thanks to these politicians.they can fall to any level to keep their pockets warm…

    • Anuja, While this article was published Adarsh and Niira Radia were still not unearthed at their fullest. No doubt, 2010 can be termed as the year of scams.

  15. its our tax money being eaten up by these politicians…….

  16. Dear Viral The Article is quite good.. infact it covers a large area of scams all over Indian. But I fear you missed out on the Adarsh Complex scam. Check it out All the best Keep writing.

    • Sherel, You’re right… I’ve missed writing about the Adarsh housing society scam and also the most recent bribes for real estate bank loans scandal. But, since I had to inculcate only Top 10 scams in India so far, it was not possible to include the above 2 scams (and, in fact, many more that went uncovered in above article). Hope you liked the compilation and the summarised brush-up for the above unfortunate events.

  17. Capt S.RAVICHANDRAN

    Dear Viral, A fine work of compilation.Having been in the NDA followed by the Indian Navy,corruption and bribes did not touch me,albeit there was another malaise that was present in the system that was equally abhorrent……bias,apple polishing and favouritism. If you care to notice,you would observe that officers in the ranks above Brig would mostly hail from Delhi n thereabouts….more on that later. How about taking on the money in swiss/cayman banks or is it a holy cow??nobody seems to be touching it. Ravi

    • Hello Captain, Thanks for leaving your valued comment. Apologies for a bit late reply as well. Yes, you’re right in saying that corruption is deep-rooted into our democratic system.

  18. Nice one, while Indian middle class is suffering from bad infrastructure, inflation etc. Babu & Netas seem to living happy, in spite of many scam. Wish to add one more and the lastest, the Housing loan scam brought out by CBI on Nov 24th involving LIC Housing finance and some of the nationalised bank. Unfortunately, the amount is still unknown,not much details have come out…

    • M. Guha Rajan, You’re right. Actually, the scam had just broken at the time while I was writing this article. So, could not include it in this scamtational post. It is said that such irregularities and corruption was always prevelant in the Housing Finance business in assoication with real estate builders. Just that this particular instance of scam broke out in public. Many such thriving scams might still be lingering in the system behind the veils.

  19. Great compilation & interesting read,m sure there is no dearth in INDIA of scams but the ones with more zeros make it to the top slot.

    • Charu, Looking at the way some of these scams have been coming out, including the recent one of housing finance scam, it really seems that the rogues are no more interested in smaller fishes. They want shark-sized baits and make life time earnings from their unscrupulous acts. Good to know that you found the article interesting :)

  20. @viral: kudos for another nice article…. u just seem to be getting better & better ! :) few points: what surprises me most, & makes me stand in awe is the astonishing growth of our country inspite of such scams . . . which proves there are ‘good’ peops working quietly, doing their bit, & never coming into limelight ! cheers to their spirit ! now, what i wonder is is it the system that is wrong, or the janata’s constant striving to overtake the system . . . . i mean ofcourse, we need to improve the systems to ensure less corruptions, like maybe having cameras. . . .et al, but fundamentally speaking, are they completely inefficient??/ or we just need to improve the technicalities?? can we really bring about a phenomenal change in corruption, or will it continue like this only ! could be what comes up is hardly a tip of the ice-berg. i am sure the media can keep going to the bank w/ all these scams,….+ there would be all sorts of people involved in it. but public memory is short. i read/heard abt CWG here after a long time it feels ! from here, how can we grow??? how can we ensure, that such things don’t happen ??

    • Nikhil, Nice to know that you liked the article. I hope you enjoyed it. Yes, as you said good people are still prevailing in the system. but, the nexus of corrupted people is so humungous that the good deeds get washed away by the maligned actions of the unscrupulous politicians. These multi-thousand crore worth of scams are too big to engulf behind the savings and growth propelled by the good people. The magnitude of scams are much bigger than ever before. The stakes have gone up and so has corruption charges.

  21. Sukhminder Sukhi

    your list is incomplete my friend…how can you forget Harshad Mehta…how much ..67000 Crore?

    • Sukhminder Sukhi

      Sorry didn’t see earlier, it is there at #9. And then we say there is no progress in India. Poverty is not going away, why there is so much unemployment, brain drain and so on. because so many lakh crores have vanished into the thin air. Well, that is not a big deal. We are dildaar Indians. Big deal is all these scammers are still alive, enjoying their empires. And who is fucked up everyday is an honest man, a school teacher or a farmer, who won’t be ever able to buy a car or dream. The are living just to hear about another scam after another. What can laws of the land do when they are sold and mold for them, they are only for you and me… I heard Kasab is also still alive. Out of this all ..one things has surely happened. I no longer now see or hear: Mera Bharat Mahaan…after all hypes don’t live longer!

      • Sukhminder, Agreed with your view. In fact, just when a feeling of a calm was creeping in during the UPA’s 1st term, it panned out to be a calm before the storm. and, the UPA-II has been the term of exposing all those scandals. At least, some of these scams are coming to the public light. Rather I feel this could just be a tip of the iceberg. God alone knows how many more scam would have been supressed under the table… out from the public reach. Hopefully, the media should play a crucial role in exposing some of these unearthed scams. Will media live up to the expectations???

  22. K V Gopalakrishnan

    I call it a double standard: while even a small time thief is looked down upon by the society, the looters in the garb of netas and babus are only glorified by the same society. Our netas and babus know this only too well and are pretty comfortable that despite all the screaming headlines of this scams and mega-scams, their shelf life is only till the next mega-mega scams break out and they happen in maddening regularity.

  23. Dinesh Chanchalani

    All these scams will soon be overshadowed by the #barkhagate #mediamafia scam

  24. Hello Viral, Nice compilation. However I have a suggestion. Most of us are used to the amounts in thousands of crores, be it in company business figures or mergers and aquisitions or new project costs. Now the scams have graduated to lakhs of crores. But most of us can not visualize one lakh seventy six thousand crores. I have read an article some where which makes it convenient for ordinary people like me. They say 2G scam is worth 38 billion USD equivalent. See? very simple. Now we can understand that it is equivalent to our trade deficit for one year or twice the size of FII inflows. Only yesterday another interesting Top of the world list was announced in rediff. Its No. 1 Shop lifters in the world. India tops with anual 2.6 billion USD worth of shop lifting. Though this is irrelavent to the topic of the article, I just thought to say that its in our genes that we loot where ever possible irrespective of status of the person. If they are politicians / businessmen, they do it big. Even normal people do the looting if possible. I also do not intend to imply that only Indians do it. When I saw the shoplifting list, I was surprised to find Finland, Norway, Denmark which are ahead in all kinds of standard fo living lists are among top 10 shop lifters!!

  25. Hi Viral, Thanks for a compiling a very entertaining list of scams. I am sure you had to be very selective for choosing the Top 10!

    • Madhav, Selecting the Top 2 scandals was as simple as doing a catwalk (though, I realize that even doing a catwalk is not so easy!), as not many scams in Indian have so far crossed Rs.20-30 thousand crores in terms of size. So far as the Telgi scam is concerned, I was definitely a bit surprised to realize that it could well be the third biggest scam in India. And yeah… it is also one of the few scandals wherein the culprit is actually behind the bars. Hope you ‘enjoyed’ the compilation, rather I would use the word ‘disgraced’ by the list of scams in India.

    • Yeah , right. No any person is present here who is unculprit. But being a Indian we are suppose to try to remove it … We should never give up.

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