Real-Life Poonam Verma In ‘Poacher’: Who Is Umesh Aggarwal?

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Richie Mehta’s Poacher brings forward the barbarous nature of human beings who would kill the beautiful creatures of the planet only to turn them into lifeless ivory sculptures. And evil are those who would create a supply and demand cycle for these priceless artifacts in order to fill their own pockets. The Amazon series began with the arrest of trafficker Morris Finn, who handed out the names of three prime suspects in the entire racket, one of whom was a Delhi-based art dealer named Poonam Verma. The narrative of Richie Mehta’s series is inspired by the real-life events that took place somewhere around Malayattoor in 2015, soon after which the Kerala Forest Department got into action and initiated “Operation Shikar” to put the culprits behind bars. Poonam Verma’s character in the Poacher series is loosely inspired by a real-life businessman and art dealer named Umesh Aggarwal, who was often quoted as the Sansar Chand (or the King) of the ivory trade. So, without further ado, let’s draw the parallels between Umesh Aggarwal and his fictional counterpart, which was presented in the Amazon series.

Spoiler Alert


Who is Umesh Aggarwal?

In the early 1980s, Umesh used to work as a local salesman and had a small handicraft shop in Delhi when he came in contact with a man named Eagle Rajan. In the Poacher series, Morris Finn gave the police the name of a broker-cum-middleman named Ravi Don, who, according to Finn, handled all the clients. Ravi’s character was loosely inspired by Eagle Rajan, who came into contact with the likes of Poonam Verma all over India and exported huge amounts of ivory from Kerala to these merchants, who would later turn these raw materials into finished artifacts and sell them to rich customers.

As the partnership between Umesh and Rajan thrived, the Delhi salesman set up his own company, Art of India. As per the official listing, the manufacturer company was established in 1992 and used to export products that looked like ivory to European countries. Most likely, Umesh used his company as a front for his illegal trade business so that no one would suspect his lavish lifestyle and steep rise to success.


How Did the Police Catch Umesh Aggarwal?

In June 2015, the Kerala Forest Department arrested two middlemen named Preston Silva and Aji Bright in possession of 50 kgs of ivory, which they were about to export to a Delhi-based businessman who was none other than Umesh Aggarwal. The Amazon series narrates a similar account. DHO Dina found a receipt on Morris’ phone that revealed that he had sent 75 kgs of ivory to Delhi. Through this information, it could be speculated that the character of Morris Finn was inspired by these two middlemen, as in the series, it was he who informed the police about the Delhi art dealer.

The officers started investigating the call records of these two middlemen and found out about Umesh and his partner-in-crime, Rajan. However, as soon as the news of the arrest came to light, the two people got cautious, and Rajan even fled India, which happens in the Amazon series as well. Neel Banerjee used all his resources to track down Ravi Don, only to finally arrest him in the end.

With the help of Jose Louies (named Alan Joseph in the show), the Kerala Police Department started a rigorous investigation, and three months after the arrest of the middlemen, the officers finally found some intel on Umesh. They sent a task force from Kerala and raided Umesh’s house in Laxmi Nagar, Delhi, on October 2. From here on, much of the story presented in the Amazon series is true.

The Delhi-based art dealer lived in one of the most lavish houses in the locality and had installed CCTV cameras on every corner of his house to secure his kingdom. But to the police’s disappointment, Umesh was already aware of the ongoing investigation and, therefore, had removed all traces of ivory from his house and replaced them with plastic and resin artifacts. The police also found a basement in the house where he used to carve the artifacts. However, all the artifacts seized from Umesh’s house were made of plastic, which had also been presented in the Poacher series. It is to be noted that everyone involved in the racket tried their best to make authorities believe that the artifacts that they had been selling were made of plastic. It even gave their buyers an easy excuse to evade arrest because the same was mentioned in the receipts, and they could easily prove their innocence.

Nevertheless, the police had no real evidence against Umesh, which was why they decided to bring the culprit to Kerala through a long channel for further interrogation. They wanted to put the man in the middle so he would confess to his crimes, but Umesh refused to give in. Even in custody, he declined any involvement in the ivory trade and claimed that all his artifacts were made of plastic. The police’s luck was running thin until they finally arrested Rajan, who was coming back to India from Sharjah, Dubai.


How Did the Police Recover the Ivory?

Rajan’s arrest proved to be a turning point in the entire investigation, soon after which Umesh gave in and spilled all the beans. He informed the police that after the arrest of the two middlemen, he shifted an entire lot of the ivory artifacts and raw materials to a safe house in Jaffarabad, in Northeast Delhi. Yes, it was the same conflicted neighborhood that was presented in the Poacher series, and Umesh had tactfully chosen a congested neighborhood as he knew it would be impossible for the police to take out all the goods without any retaliation from the neighbors.

From Umesh’s safe house, the Kerala Police confiscated some 487 kgs of ivory, which was worth crores. But even though the police had arrested Umesh, the road to making sure the culprits got the punishment they deserved was a long and bumpy one. As mentioned in the Poacher series, Umesh (or his fictional counterpart, Poonam Verma) was a well-connected businessman and would get to walk away with a minimum sentence. It was something that happened in real life, as the authorities failed to find any incriminating evidence against the culprit. Because of the inefficiency of the law enforcement officers, Umesh was soon granted bail, after which he avoided media and public attention and kept a low profile. As of now, very little is known about him.

The likes of Umesh Aggarwal will keep thriving in our society until we, as individuals, say no to animal-based products and put an end to their demands. But there are thousands of rich people who take pride in flaunting their snakeskin merchandise and ivory-based artifacts. It is this sadistic pride that we need to fight against first.


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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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