7 arrested in ₹4 crore bank fraud

Cover blown: The accused, including an advocate and a bank employee, being taken into custody on Thursday.

Cover blown: The accused, including an advocate and a bank employee, being taken into custody on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Yogesh Mhatre

The Panvel City police have arrested seven people who forged cheques and transferred ₹4.10 crore from the bank account of Herbal Life International Pvt Ltd.

The accused have been identified as advocate Aarafat Hanif Shaikh (33), a resident of Sector 17 in Nerul; Mukesh Lakshman Prasad Gupta (45), a sales manager at ICICI Bank’s Old Panvel branch; Vinod Madhukar Bhosale (44), a resident of Kalamboli who runs a construction business; Javed Habib Ahmad Qureshi (55), a resident of JJ Road in Mumbai; Shrijil Mohanan Kurupambil (39), a resident of Dombivali; Ramkishan Lularknath Pandey (51), an exporter from Ulhasnagar; and Amitara Aurovido Mitra (61), a consultant from Santacruz with a degree in microbiology from Germany.

The complaint was filed by the manager of ICICI Bank’s Old Panvel branch on February 8. According to the complaint, on February 5, a man submitted an application at the branch to change the registered mobile number attached to the bank account of Herbal Life International Pvt Ltd. The application had the letterhead and digital signature of the company.

Later, another man entered the branch with a cheque of the company and sought to transfer ₹4.10 crore via real-time gross settlement (RTGS) to the bank account of RK Enterprises at Induslnd Bank’s Koparkhairane branch. After the money was transferred, Herbal Life International Pvt Ltd received a notification via email regarding the transaction. The company informed ICICI Bank that it had neither issued a cheque nor requested to change its mobile number. ICICI Bank then informed Induslnd Bank to freeze the transferred amount. However, the accused had withdrawn ₹4 lakh from the bank account.

Ashok Dudhe, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone II), said, “We informed ICICI Bank officials to inform us if any person visits the bank to enquire about the transaction.” A team comprising senior police inspector Ajay Landge, assistant police inspectors Nilesh Rajput and Ishan Kharote, and police personnel was formed to nab the accused. When Mr. Pandey turned up at the bank, the officials alerted the police and they arrested him. Mr. Pandey’s interrogation led the police to the remaining accused and the final arrest in the case was made on Wednesday.

The police said Mr. Shaikh was the mastermind of the fraud and had been planning it for the past six months. Mr. Shaikh first asked Mr. Pandey to open an account at Induslnd Bank and then got in touch with Mr. Gupta with the help of an accused, who is still absconding. Mr. Shaikh paid Mr. Gupta and the wanted accused ₹10,000 each to obtain the account number and cheque numbers of Herbal Life International Pvt Ltd.

Mr. Dudhe said, “Mr. Shaikh chose the company as it used to make many transactions and had a hefty sum in its account.” Mr. Shaikh then used details on the company’s website to forge the letterhead, download the digital signature and create a rubber stamp. He handed over the forged documents to Mr. Mitra, who submitted the application to change the company’s registered mobile number.

Meanwhile, Mr. Qureshi procured fake cheques from Delhi and gave them to Mr. Bhosale, who passed them on to Mr. Kurupambil. The police said it was Mr. Kurupambil who submitted the cheque at ICICI Bank. “We are probing how the fake cheques were made. They even had the unique watermark due to which they were cleared. More arrests will be made if other bank employees are found to be involved in the fraud,” Mr. Dudhe said. The accused have been remanded in police custody till Saturday.

Employee suspended

An ICICI Bank spokesperson said, “We received a cheque along with an RTGS instruction ostensibly from the customer. Therefore, money was transferred to a third party account of a different bank, as per the instruction. Then, the customer informed us that it had not issued the cheque. Taking cognisance of the complaint, we immediately requested the other bank to freeze the account. While a fraction of the amount was withdrawn by the fraudsters from an ATM in Delhi, most of the amount was put under freeze with the other bank. This amount is available in the banking system. The bank has a zero tolerance policy for any act of indiscretion or fraud. The employee, who has been found involved, has been suspended. The bank has been extending full cooperation to the investigating authorities.”

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 4:22:26 AM |

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