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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 sitting members.[1][3][4]

Earlier life[edit]

He was born in village in siwan, by profession he was a lawyer before he became a con man.[2]

Modus operandi[edit]

He 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 a number of industrialists including the Tatas, the Birlas and also Dhirubhai Ambani[5] taking from them huge sums of money in cash, posing as a social worker or needy person.[5] He also duped many shop-owners of lakhs of rupees, paying them by cheque and demand draft.

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.[6]The last time he was arrested was in 1996 and was 84 years old at that time. But he managed again to 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 earlier at Ranchi.[1][3] So the actual time and year of death is yet uncertain. In the finest Natwarlal fashion, he “died” twice, 13 years apart, living up to his legend.

He had 2 wives. 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[7] and Victor Lustig.[8]

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.[9]


The people of his native village Bangra in Bihar take 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]

While his house is said to have been demolished by the British, 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. Many fraudsters say they were inspired by the life of Natwarlal.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "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 "Nuts about Natwarlal". The Times of India. 23 April 2018. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Conman inspired by Natwarlal arrested". Zee News. 6 March 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  4. ^ Applied Psychology: India Specific and Cross-cultural Perspectives By Smarak Swain. p. 22.
  5. ^ a b Chitralekha, Feb 2007
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Gotcha". Times of India. 1 April 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  8. ^ Who Sold the Eiffel Tower Twice?
  9. ^ "Aaj Tak bids to unravel mystery of conman Natwarlal". 3 April 2004. Archived from the original on 2013-01-03. Retrieved 3 August 2012.