Central Crime Branch (CCB) of the city police are on the hunt for a 21-year-old computer tutor from Kota district in Rajasthan who allegedly orchestrated the online cheating of Rs. 18.8 lakh from an NRI's bank account in Chennai. The suspect had impersonated the victim and made changes to his internet banking account via the phone banking system.

Sources with the CCB said that the suspect, Mohammed Azharuddin, a B.A. English Literature dropout and a tutor at a computer centre at his native village in Kota district, had fraudulently made three online transfers of Rs. 5 lakh each to his relatives and an acquaintance, from the ICICI bank account of businessman and Dubai resident Louis Peter Bernard (47).

The fraud came to light when Bernard came to Chennai on December 30, 2011 and realised that his ATM card was blocked. He approached the ICICI bank in Nungambakkam where he holds an NRI account, but was shocked to find that Rs. 18.8 lakh had been siphoned off. His communication address, email ID and internet banking ID had been changed and the bank authorities informed him that a fresh debit card had also been issued to an address in Periamet, sources added.

Bernard lodged a complaint with the Commissioner of Police and a CCB team investigating the case found out that in the first week of December, the key suspect Azharuddin changed Bernard's communication address and email ID through the ICICI phone banking system after fraudulently obtaining the NRI account details of the businessman.

“After obtaining new passwords for net banking and online transactions for Bernard's account, the suspect applied for a debit card with the address of a lodge in Periamet. He travelled to Chennai, stayed in the lodge and received the card,” said an investigating officer.

Azharuddin immediately made online transfers of Rs.15 lakh to different accounts in Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. He purchased gold jewellery and other items worth Rs. 3.80 lakh using the card in Chennai and Mumbai. CCTV footage from a shop here was obtained and the police team went to Rajasthan to nab Azharuddin but he managed to flee, the officer added.

However, Mahabir Prasad (62), a grocery dealer, to whose account the suspect transferred a portion of the cash, was arrested in Delhi on Tuesday. He was brought to Chennai on Friday and remanded to judicial custody. A search is on for four more suspects including Azharuddin.

Further investigations are on to ascertain how the suspect got the bank account details and whether he had access to more NRI accounts, police sources said.

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