The gang may have taken nearly Rs.60 lakh from several accounts: Police

The account of a director with the ICICI Bank, who is presently based in California, United States, was hacked and Rs.5 lakh were taken out by a tech-savvy gang this past month. While one of the gang members has now been arrested, the police suspect the gang to have cheated several people and siphoned off nearly Rs.60 lakh from their bank accounts.

The amount was debited from the account of Sridhar Iyengar, an ICICI Bank director, on March 22 through an instruction given from the authentication e-mail address that was updated by the gang members in the bank records for the purpose. Mr. Iyengar maintains the account at one of the Mumbai-based branches.

The money was transferred to another account maintained with a Kolkata branch of the same bank, which belonged to a company having its office at South City Hall in Kolkata. A third party withdrawal of Rs.3.95 lakh was done by a suspected gang member, Raju Singh, a resident of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, from the Connaught Place branch of the bank. The remaining sum was withdrawn through automatic teller machines.

The conspiracy was unearthed after the Connaught Place branch received a self-drawn cheque for Rs.3.75 lakh belonging to another Kolkata-based company purportedly issued by its proprietor. The cheque bearer identified himself as Satish Kumar. He produced his PAN card to prove his identity. However, suspecting that something was amiss, the teller alerted his seniors who cross-checked the signature on the cheque and found that it was the same as that on another cheque issued earlier by the South City Hall-based company.

On further verification, they discovered that both the companies had identical addresses. Subsequently, on the pretext that the transaction would take some time, the bank staff called up the police. The suspect was then handed over to the Economic Offences Wing of Crime Branch for further investigation.

During interrogation, the accused confessed to his complicity and disclosed the name of his accomplice as Raju, who used to hack into the bank accounts and illegally transfer money to other accounts opened in various banks by the accused persons through forged identification documents.

The arrested suspect operated under various aliases, including Satish, Anuj Sharma and Harish. He had allegedly got PAN cards and other identification documents prepared under these pseudonyms.

He has told the interrogators that his real name is Bahruddin and that he was a resident of Bareilly. A team has been despatched to his native place for verification.

Investigations have so far indicated that apparently in connivance with some insiders, the gang members obtained confidential electronic data of Mr. Iyengar which they used to hack into his email account and while impersonating as him generated a request for change of the authenticated email address.

They then got Rs.5 lakh transferred to their account through net banking without the authorisation from the bona-fide account holder and withdrew the money.

The police have so far identified nine bank accounts being operated by the gang members and have detected transactions to the tune of Rs.60 lakh made through them, which has raised suspicion that the accused had targeted several persons. They have also identified several email addresses operated by the gang members. Two of the PAN cards used by them have also been seized.

The EOW has registered a case on the basis of a complaint lodged by a bank representative and launched a hunt for Raju.

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