Conman who played his last trick on his murderers

FP

Three weeks since his murder, Harihara Varma remains as much a mystery as he must have been in life, with police learning little apart from the fact that he was a swindler in marriage as well as in business — one who eventually conned his murderers themselves.

He had convinced his two wives with claims of a royal ancestry. He is believed to have made money out of several gems dealers, who thought he had royal jewellery to sell them. And he had the last laugh on his murderers, who found that the stones they had taken from him were fake.

Varma was smothered to death with the help of chloroform last month by five youths, three of them students in professional courses, at the Thiruvananthapuram house of an advocate who was working as a middleman. The advocate, K Haridas, told the police that Varma was a member of an erstwhile royal family from central Kerala and had been dealing in precious metals and gems. Haridas, who said the killers had taken away diamonds and other stones worth Rs 300 crore, has since been arrested.

The image of a rich prince ended hours after Varma's death. The Mavelikkara royal family's spokesperson, R P Raja, dismissed Varma's claim to royalty. There was indeed a person named Harihara Varma in the family tree, a fact Varma the conman appears to have exploited. Raja said the family has no stock of gems and diamonds.

Police sources said a complete picture about Varma is yet to emerge. All the police have is a passport bearing his name, recovered from his premises. After the murder, no one from his ancestral family has turned up. His first wife claimed the body. "Both wives describe Varma as a decent man but have little idea about his business dealings," says assistant commissioner K E Baiju.

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