Depth of Rs 107-cr deceit: How a bizman 'swindled' wife's wealthy parents for 4 years

Mohammed Hafeez Kudroli (28) of Chengala in Kasaragod married the Lahirs' only daughter Hajera Lahir in January 2017. Photo: Instagram/Hafeez Kudroli

Kasaragod: March 22. Tuesday. That's the day the lives of the Lahirs, a business family in Dubai, came crashing down.

Educationist Saira Lahir and her husband Abdul Lahir Hasan, who runs five schools and a construction business in the UAE, had flown down to Bengaluru to confront their son-in-law Mohammed Hafeez Kudroli.

"But Hafeez took us to a Cafe Coffee Day and told us he was lying," said Abdul Lahir.

"It was a big lie. A Rs 107-crore lie. Hafeez confessed without any emotions. He did not care that his words were hurting us," said Lahir.

Mohammed Hafeez Kudroli (28) of Chengala in Kasaragod married the Lahirs' only daughter Hajera Lahir in January 2017.

He is now accused of swindling Rs 107,98,85,909 ($13.30 million) out of the family between July 2018 and March 2022 by cooking up stories of big-budget property deals, raids by the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate, forging documents of these government agencies and property developers, and impersonating celebrities and business owners.

The Ernakulam District Crime Branch is investigating Lahir's complaint filed on August 21. The four accused had moved the Kerala High Court for anticipatory bail. On December 1, the court postponed the hearing to December 8.

"The money mentioned in the complaint is only what I can prove with documentary evidence," said Lahir, a native of Aluva in Ernakulam.

Abdul Lahir, Hafeez's father-in-law and the complainant. Photo: LEAMS Education/Special Arrangement.

He has accused Hafeez's parents Shafi Kudroli and Aisha of subjecting Hajera to cruelty.

Hajera has filed for divorce from Hafeez and is now living with her parents in Dubai. The estranged couple has a three-year-old son.

Lahir has also accused Akshay Thomas Vaidian (38) of The One World, a documentation firm in Kochi, of helping Hafeez forge documents.

Vaidian, the fourth accused in the case, has denied the charges and said he was shocked to know that Hafeez's marital life had fallen apart.

'They cannot prove the charges against Hafeez'
The Lahir family realised they were allegedly being played on by their son-in-law only by March this year, five years after the marriage.

"Even after we started doubting and questioning him, he tried to trick us into three fake property deals in Bengaluru," said Lahir.

That's when Lahir, Saira, and their two sons Nabir and Mohammed Lahir flew down to Bengaluru to confront Hafeez.

They also called his parents Shafi Kudroli and Aisha Beevi to Bengaluru.

"Hafeez admitted to lying only when we insisted on seeing the properties he was selling us," alleged Lahir.

There was no property, only fake sale agreements.

Hafeez has denied the allegations. Speaking to Onmanorama, his relative said the Lahirs cannot prove that the forged documents in their possession were given by Hafeez.

On fake property deals, he said the Lahirs should have personally verified before transferring the money. He said every allegation against him was borne out of the marital discord.  

But there is more to the allegations than a couple falling out.

From Turkish connection to Sonam Kapoor
In January 2021, Hafeez Kudroli of Kudroli Builders and Infrastructure Private Limited told the media that his startup Baby Sutra, a spa for children, newborns, and new mothers, was getting an investment of Rs 100 crore ($13.33 million) from a Turkish company, Metalex.

Baby Sutra had two shops in Bengaluru and one in Mumbai.

In January 2021, Hafeez Kudroli told the media that a Turkish company agreed to invest Rs 100 crore in his startup Baby Sutra, a spa for newborns and new mothers and children. The Lahirs said the document he shared could be fake. Hafeez said the deal fell through because of covid. Photo: Special Arrangement

Baby Sutra was owned by Hafeez Kudroli and his wife Hajera.

Lahir said the concept was good and he felt good about the partnership deal.

"But now I think the Metalex letter was forged. I don't know if Metalex even exists," he said.

When Onmanorama contacted Hafeez on Thursday, he said the deal fell through because of the COVID pandemic.

But the catch is Metalex purportedly decided to invest in Baby Sutra in October 2020, when Turkey was still in the grip of Covid, with around 20,000 to 30,000 cases per day.

The Metalex letter dated October 30, 2020, said: "With the recently concluded Executive Board Meeting, it has been decided to strategically partner, invest and contribute extensively to the growth of Babysutra.

"As per the terms and conditions in our last telecommunication, we are glad to inform you and your team that our Strategic Partners have approved to invest 13.33 million USD for a combined 49% equity to expand the footprints of over 100 stores across India, Middle East, and SouthEast Asia."

Onmanorama has emailed a copy of the letter to Metalex seeking clarification. It is yet to get a response. The website does not have the names or faces of the directors or a client list.

Threats of raids by ED and taxmen
Three months before the buzz around the Baby Sutra deal, Hafeez contacted his father-in-law Lahir allegedly saying the Income Tax Department had frozen bank accounts and launched an inquiry into his business Kudroli World.

Lahir said Hafeez gave him a letter from the Office of the Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Karnataka and Goa Region, to convince him.

"I transferred around Rs 3 crore to his account to get him out of the tax mess," he said.

Later, Hafeez allegedly told him about an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, which investigates offences of money laundering and violations of foreign exchange laws. Lahir transferred more money.

Onmanorama ran the letter purportedly from the Principal Chief Commissioner through a top tax officer in Kerala. She said the letter was bogus.

"First, the address is wrong. Second, it has no digital signature, and third, the letter does not have DIN," she said.

"Every document issued by the department should have a document number (DIN). Otherwise, the correspondence is considered invalid," she said.

Lodha Group's 'Rs 150-crore proposal' for Lahir's mall
In February 2020, Lahir was given another letter, this time from Lodha Group, founded by Maharashtra Tourism Minister and BJP leader Mangal Prabhat Lodha.

The letter purportedly signed by the Malabar Hill MLA Lodha offered a "humble amount of Rs 150 crore" for Lahir's property 'The Platynum Mall' near The Wyte Fort at Maradu in Kochi.

The letter also mentioned that Lodha Group was in talks with Hafeez Kudroli and it would close the deal by March.

Onmanorama shared the letter with Lodha Group, which is registered as Macrotech Developers, to check its veracity. The real estate major known for its residential skyscrapers in Mumbai said the letter is fake. "We have checked internally, and the letter is a fraudulent act and holds no authenticity," it replied.

Hafeez allegedly told his in-laws that he knew Mangal Lodha through his "adopted son Sahil Lodha," who was his classmate at Jain Engineering College, Bengaluru.

Later, he allegedly introduced Hajera to Sahil's wife over the phone. "Hajera used to chat with Sahil's wife on WhatsApp," said Lahir.

Lodha Group said it will check the document internally. The Lahirs alleged the document was forged and was given to them by Hafeez Kudroli. Photo: Special Arrangement

One fine day, Sahil's wife stopped chatting. "When we enquired, Hafeez said Sahil's wife became mentally unstable after her five-day-old son fell from her hands," he said.

Later Hafeez allegedly said the woman ended her life in London where she was being treated for mental illness.

"Hafeez even went to her funeral in Mumbai," said Lahir.

But before leaving for Mumbai, Hafeez made Saira, who is also a fashion designer and runs a boutique in Kochi, design some clothes for Sahil's newborn child.

Hafeez had also introduced 'Sonam Kapoor' over the phone to Saira saying the Bollywood actor was a relative of Sahil.

Later, 'the actor' asked Saira to design a few partywear for her. "The actor selected the colour and material of the clothes over WhatsApp. Saira's team and she invested four to five months to deliver the order," said Lahir.

She made gowns, lehengas, sarees, blouses, skirts, and tops. "It was billed at Rs 35 lakh. Hafeez took the clothes but she was not paid," he said.

When he was exposed, Saira pressed Hafeez to return the clothes. He got them from his godown where they were dumped for two years.

The Lahirs said that Hafeez must have been helped by his friends who impersonated different people on WhatsApp.

Puma showroom sale, another rip-off
In March 2020, Hafeez told the Lahirs that his friend was making a distress sale of the Puma showroom on Brigade Road in Bengaluru.

"He said the property was worth Rs 4 crore but we can buy for Rs 2.10 crore. He also said the property will fetch a monthly rent of Rs 4 lakh," said Lahir. "We were in Dubai then. So I have the chat messages from Hafeez," he said.

The son-in-law then brought the sale agreement signed by the purported owner of the store to Dubai. Lahir signed the document and transferred the money to a bank account mentioned by Hafeez.

"A month after, Hafeez gave us Rs 4 lakh as rent. But after that, we did not get any rent and neither was the property registered in my name," he said.

Hafeez allegedly blamed the delay in registering the property on Covid restrictions. "We never doubted him," said Lahir.

In March 2022, Lahir started doubting his son-in-law. That's when he said that the Puma showroom owner sold the property to another party for Rs 5 crore. "It was another lie," said Lahir.

Hafeez said he would get back the money but it was never returned. "We know we are opening ourselves up to public ridicule by sharing our experience. But there are two reasons why we are telling you our story," he said.

One, society should know that such things happen, he said. "Hafeez has cheated many people. We are surely not his first victims. But we want to be his last. Second, we want justice. He has committed several crimes and he should be brought to justice," said Lahir.

The Lahirs turn detectives
After the CCD "confession" of Hafeez in March, the Lahirs started looking into every story sold to them by their son-in-law and started verifying the documents he shared with them.

The family wrote to Jain (deemed-to-be-university) in Bengaluru asking it to verify Hafeez's civil engineering degree certificate issued in November 2016. The university wrote back saying it did not issue the certificate.

"That meant he started lying even before he married my daughter," said Lahir.

The family then went to the university to meet Hafeez's teachers. "What we learned shocked us," he said.

Hafeez was there only till the sixth semester. "His mentor-teacher told us that Hafeez had claimed his parents and siblings died in a car accident," said Lahir.

Later, he left the campus saying he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and was going to Singapore for surgery. Before leaving, Hafeez shared the phone number of his "personal assistant" with his mentor. "The mentor told us that the PA had sent updates saying the surgery was successful and he was recovering. But later she found out that Hafeez was chatting as the PA and he was never diagnosed with cancer nor was his parents killed in an accident," said Lahir.

From the university records, the Lahirs found that there was a Sahil in Hafeez's class. "We tracked him down. He was Sahil Malhotra, not Sahil Lodha. He is not married. He had a girlfriend. She is alive and doing PhD," said Lahir.

Then the couple went to the bank to which they transferred Rs 2.1 crore to buy the Puma showroom. It belonged to Hafeez's friend Farook. "Farook had transferred the money he got to Hafeez the next day. He showed us his bank statement," said Lahir.

Jain University said the civil engineering degree certificate with Mohammed Hafeez's name was not authentic. Photo: Special Arrangement

He had submitted all the documents to Aluva Police under Ernakulam Rural District.

Lahir said that Hafeez Kudroli's proposal for marriage with Hajera came through a broker. "We enquired about the family and the feedback we got was positive. His mother Aisha is a homemaker. His father Shafi is a self-made hardworking man. He established their road construction business in Goa and Bengaluru. And Hafeez was part of the business," he said.

For the wedding, the Lahirs gave their daughter 4800g of gold jewellery as a gift. "The jewellery was my family heirloom and also the ones I carefully collected over the years for my daughter," said Saira.

After the wedding, Hajera gave the gold jewellery to her mother-in-law Aisha. "Only around 20% of what we gave her is in their locker and they are not returning it either," she said.

Hafeez is also in possession of a Range Rover, owned by Hajera's second sister-in-law, a doctor.

'Is Hafeez a narcissist?'
In March, after the CCD confession, the Lahirs decided to get Hafeez examined by psychiatrists and psychologists.

"Since his parents were also in Bengaluru, we took him to St John's Medical College. The hospital referred us to NIMHANS," said Lahir.

The Lahirs suspected Hafeez suffered from some kind of narcissistic personality disorder.

"Because there was no need for him to do all these things. He could have just joined our businesses or carried on with his father's business," said Saira.

"But no. He did not have patience for organic growth. He behaved like a celebrity on his Instagram," she said.

Hafeez told Onmanorama that he did not know Sonam Kapoor and so there was no question of him making his mother-in-law design clothes for her.

But his well-curated Instagram account with nearly 15,000 followers, betrays his claim.

It has several photographs of Hafeez with celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Rahul Gandhi, M S Dhoni, Virat Kohli, and Milind Deora. In January last year, he received an award from Mandira Bedi.

The Insta photographs are interspersed with stolen quotes on a black background and signed off 'Hafeez Kudroli' in fancy fonts.

At NIMHANS, the doctors did a personality test and an IQ test on him and found he had no behavioral problems. "But the doctors told his father that if Hafeez did not mend his ways, he would destroy his family," said Lahir.

Back in Dubai, Lahir texted the NIMHANS doctor asking if his son-in-law was a narcissist. "We are curious. We may never know the depth of his deceit," said Lahir.

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