Rajan Mahbubani was dressed in a pilot’s uniform Monday: dark slacks, a crisp white shirt and golden aviation pins above his left shirt pocket and atop his hat. Should there be too much bright sun while in flight, his aviator glasses were just in reach.
Mahbubani, 48, was ready to board an AirAsia flight as a passenger from New Delhi headed toward Kolkata, India. Being dressed as a pilot had its privileges, including seat upgrades and the exclusive permission to walk past airport plebeians.
The Delhi native loved the perks and the pilot lifestyle, posting Instagram pictures and TikTok videos of himself in the cockpit.
Those social media posts and travel perks would’ve been fine if Mahbubani had actually been a pilot.
Instead of flying off to Kolkata on Monday, he found himself heading to jail when authorities arrested him at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi for posing as a Lufthansa pilot, NDTV reported.
A chief security officer of the German airline tipped off the Central Industrial Security Force that there was a suspected passenger dressed as a captain for the airline, which led to Mahbubani’s arrest, the television station reported.
Mahbubani, a consultancy agency owner, told police that he bought his fake pilot identity card from Bangkok two years ago, the Indian Express reported.
Authorities also uncovered pictures of Mahbubani dressed as an army colonel and other outfits in his cellphone, the police told the paper.
“During interrogation, Mahbubani said that he is a frequent traveler and used to impersonate a pilot of international airlines to gain easy access during security clearance and have preferential treatment from security agencies and airlines,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (IGI Airport) Sanjay Bhatia told the Hindustan Times.
The Times of India reported that the businessman is being interrogated by police and intelligence agencies. The exact charges against him are unclear.
Mahbubani’s antics are drawing comparisons to famed fraudster Frank Abagnale.
Abagnale, a notorious con man turned respected authority on forgery, faked a pilot identification card and a Federal Aviation Administration license to fly across the world.
Abagnale’s clever schemes and ability to evade authorities was later the subject of the 2002 Steven Spielberg-directed blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio titled “Catch Me If You Can.”