The Last Maharaja Of Kashmir-Victim Of An Extortion Plot In London

The Last Maharaja Of Kashmir-Victim Of An Extortion Plot In London

Hira Lal Kak
Hari Singh was born to Amar Singh (September 23, 1895), the young brother of Partap Singh who had no son to succeed him. He was enrolled for higher studies in Mayo College Ajmer in 1908 following which he went to the Imperial Cadet Corps at Dehra Dun for military training. After his father’s death in 1909, the British ensured he is educated well. By 20, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the J&K state forces. Unlike his predecessors Hari Singh was Kashmiri speaking and Western educated with a very good exposure to the world. However, well before he took over as the last Dogra maharaja of the state when Partap Singh died in 1925, Hari Singh was always in news.
History books suggest he was a lavish spender. In 1918, he was in England and had created a record of spending money. Operating from Douglas Castle in Scotland, the prince had acquired such notoriety that there were attempts to rob him off.
However, it was the incident of 1921 that eventually gave him a nickname and an introduction worldwide. Around 1919, Partap Singh decided that his nephew, Hari Singh, should go to Europe for a visit.
After visiting the Royal Family, Singh spent some time in London and later crossed over to Paris. “In this brief interval, he succumbed to the wiles of a certain bewitching Mrs. Robinson,” reported Time in 1924. “The Raja did not treat his ladylove with the liberality that she had expected. Therefore, according to the evidence given at the trial, she became implicated in a plot.”
Singh and ‘Maudie’ Robinson were in a Paris hotel when a man barged in and introduced himself as her husband. A crestfallen prince was forced to part with two cheques for about $750,000 each in order to prevent divorce proceedings which would most certainly implicate him as respondent. He did stop payment of one cheque but by then, another had been cashed.
It was a reprobate solicitor named Hobbs who deposited the cheque in the name of Robinson in a London Branch of the Midland Bank. Later, he withdrew the money, gave Robinson $125,000, divided the remaining $625,000 among the plotters. In this year of grace, Time reported, Robinson sought to recover all the money which had been deposited in the bank, suing that institution for negligence in turning over the money to Hobbs without his authority.
Alternately, he claimed damages. But the bank affirmed, and was upheld by the court, that Robinson to them was merely a fictitious name and that it was, therefore, entirely within its rights in returning the money to the depositor who represented himself to be Robinson. The bank did say it was extortion money from an ‘Eastern Potentate’. The court on the request of Secretary of State for India withheld the potentate’s name and thus was born ‘Mr A’.
The trial proved that Captain Arthur was party to the plot and was paid $200,000, Hobbs, got another $200,000 for ‘professional services’. One Newton, who had impersonated as Robinson in the bedroom scene because Mrs Robinson had a very low opinion of her husband’s physical beauty, also received $200,000. A Mrs Bevan who ‘decoyed’ the aide got $25,000 and Robinsons received $125,000, which the male Robinson paid over to the female and started divorce proceedings. Judgment was entered for the defendant (Midland Bank) with costs amounting to about $150,000. Lord John Simon who was Singh’s counsel described his client as “a poor, green, shivering, abject wretch.”
After the case was over, the police made certain arrests. Captain Arthur fled to Paris and fought a protracted extradition battle challenging British court’s jurisdiction over him. Hobbs, the solicitor was put on trial as Robinsons and Newton were put under police surveillance. Finally the crown permitted the identification of Mr A.
Hari Singh returned home to face the wrath of Partap Singh, his uncle. He was banished to a remote jungle estate for six months and made to perform ritual acts of humiliation and penance. In penance for his indiscretions, Singh shaved off his mustache.