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Mithilesh Kumar Srivastava, better known as Natwarlal (1912–2009),[1][2] was a noted Indian con man known for having repeatedly "sold" the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, and the Rashtrapati Bhavan and also the Parliament House of India along with its 545 sitting members.[1][3][4]

Earlier life[edit]

He was born in Bangra village in Siwan district of Bihar, by profession he was a lawyer before he turned into a conman.[2]

Modus operandi[edit]

He had duped hundreds of people of crores of rupees and used more than 50 aliases to disguise himself.[1] He was a master of disguises and used novel ideas to cheat people. He was also a master in forging signatures of famous personalities.[1][2] He is also said to have cheated number of industrialists including the Tatas, the Birlas and also Dhirubhai Ambani[5] taking from them huge money in cash, posing as social workers or needy person.[5] Also he had duped many shop-owners with lakhs of rupees, paying them by cheque and demand drafts, which were later found to be forged.[2][5]

Natwarlal was wanted in more than 100 cases and he was wanted by 8 states police and was sentenced to 113 years in prison. However, he made daring escapes from different jails nine times in his life.[6]

Natwarlal was arrested nine times but every time he was able to break out of jail and escape. He was convicted for 14 cases of forgery and was sentenced for 113 years, but he hardly spent 20 years in prison.[7]The last time he was arrested was in 1996 and was 84 years old at that time. But he managed again give the police the slip and was last seen by authorities on June 24, 1996; when the wheelchair-using octogenarian vanished while being transported from prison to a hospital for treatment. He disappeared at New Delhi railway station, when he was being taken to AIIMS, under police escort from Kanpur jail for his treatment,[1][2] after which he was never seen again.[1][2]

Death and mystery[edit]

In 2009, his lawyer requested that more than 100 charges pending against Natwarlal be dropped claiming that Natwarlal died on Saturday July 25, 2009. However, Natwarlal's brother, Ganga Prasad Srivastava, subsequently claimed to have cremated him in 1996 at Ranchi.[1][3] So the actual time and year of death is yet uncertain. In the finest Natwarlal tradition, he “died” twice, 13 years apart, living up to his legend.

He is survived by one daughter, who lives in Ranchi and is married to a soldier.[2] His younger brother, Ganga Prasad Shrivastav lives in Gopalganj.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

His exploits are often compared with Frank Abagnale[8] and Victor Lustig[9]

Jurm is a popular weekly crime based television programme aired by Aaj Tak, based on episodes of his life and a story that was broadcast in 2004.[10]


The people of his native village Bangra in Bihar take a pride in the fact that he belonged to their village and have decided to put up a statue of him as his monument, at the place, where his house once stood.[2]

His house is said to have been demolished by the British, however, the land still belongs to the family.[2]


He is considered to be the greatest conman in Indian history and his legend lives on as any conman who pulls off particularly smart cons is called Natwarlal in India[1] and many fraudsters say they were inspired by the life of Natwarlal.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Natwarlal leaves ’em guessing even in death". Hindustan Times. 29 July 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Nuts about Natwarlal". The Times of India. 23 April 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Conman inspired by Natwarlal arrested". Zee 6 March 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  4. ^ Applied Psychology: India Specific and Cross-cultural Perspectives By Smarak Swain. p. 22. 
  5. ^ a b c Chitralekha, Feb 2007
  6. ^ "Famous Fugitives". Indian Express. 20 February 2004. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  7. ^ Madhavan, Deepu (2015-11-19). "10 Things You Need To Know About The Man Who Sold The Taj Mahal. Thrice!!!". India Times. Retrieved 2016-01-02. 
  8. ^ "Gotcha". Times of India. 1 April 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  9. ^ Who Sold the Eiffel Tower Twice?
  10. ^ "Aaj Tak bids to unravel mystery of conman Natwarlal". 3 April 2004. Retrieved 3 August 2012.