420, the penal provision on cheating, in common parlance, encompasses a wide gamut of offences. Living up to a title like ‘You Just Got Cheated’, what with the soaring statistics, and a giveaway tagline: ‘Understanding White-Collar Crimes’, may seem an uphill task.
Frankly, it’s hard not to be effusive in a review of a masterpiece on this broad rubric. Not because it is written by top notch Indian Revenue Service officer Dr. Sibichen K. Mathew. Not because of deserving encomiums from stalwarts like former Chief Justice of India Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, Economist Bibek Debroy, Former SEBI Chairman M.Damodaran and Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court Arvind P.Datar. Not because the subject will always be evergreen! Packed in 379 pages (incidentally, the section on theft in the Indian Penal Code!) is a ringside view of the anatomy of financial crime.
Title: YOU JUST GOT CHEATED
Author: SIBICHEN K. MATHEW
Replete with wit, that starts with the dedication to “you, me and the victims!” and catchy captions, like ‘Unreal Estate’, ‘Mutual Funds: Your Loss, Their Gain’ just to pinpoint a few, the book is engaging and enlightening, to say the least. Considering that it is written by a serving Income Tax Commissioner, the work is remarkably hard-hitting, calling a spade a spade, wherever necessary.
That the author chooses to be a lifelong student, evident from a string of academic degrees and distinctions. A striking feature across all the 15 Chapters is the sheer quantum of research and the almost encyclopedic range of information it contains. The depth in the commentary and analysis is reflected in the references that are often half as long as the chapters.
There is a powerful spotlight thrown on not just our own Harshad Mehta or PMC Bank or Vijay Mallya or Satyam or Ponzi schemes or the Japan Life India magnetic mattress, but also international cases such as Edemar Cid Ferreira’s Banco Santos securities scam.
The ace officer’s forensic expertise comes to the fore at the start itself with his references to how criminals play the victim card. Unsparing to the core, it focusses on even effluents from the affluent – largescale corporate environmental violations like copper, mercury, endosulfan pollution. From religious crimes & Godmen to degrees for sale, from the unholy nexus between the pharmaceutical lobby and unethical clinical research, doctors as ‘brand ambassadors’ to terror funding, here’s a work that deserves a prominent place in any law & crime book shelf.
After being suitably alarmed and fore-warned, if you still get cheated, Sibichen Mathew can jolly afford an ‘I Told You So’ shrug.
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, Arbitrator, Columnist, Author & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)