Conmen, allegedly with the help of 'insiders' in Lucknow Development Authority (LDA), are defrauding the development agency of crores of public money in a welloiled racket.
Instead of reaching the accounts of applicants, refund money by the agency for its cancelled housing schemes is being pocketed by fraudsters, allegedly in cahoots with LDA employees. The lid of the scam was blown off by an alert HDFC bank official on Wednesday following which senior LDA officials went into a huddle to assess the financial loss to the department.
What had sent alarm bells ringing in the department was a Rs. 8 lakh cheque issued by LDA to one Savitri Devi Sharma as a refund for booking of a flat under the recently scrapped Sulabh Awasiya Yojana.
While Sharma was yet to receive the cheque, a similar cheque for Rs. 3.5 crore with the same serial number and series drawn in the name of one Ifteqaruddin was presented for clearance. “But for its highvalue, the cheque would have past muster as the signatures of the sanctioning authority, namely LDA secretary AP Tiwari and finance controller Mohad Yadav, matched to a T. Moreover, we get dozens of such refunds from the LDA,” said an official requesting anonymity.
The vigilant bank official called up the accounts section of LDA to confirm the transaction and all hell broke loose in the development agency.
A quick inspection by the development agency has revealed that Rs. 22 lakh has already been siphoned off from its coffers in a similar manner in the name of Loreto Shiksha Samiti based in Agra, according to sources.
"We are still looking into it but preliminary investigation has shown that there could be several such instances," said another official requesting anonymity. "It does seem to be an inside job as blank leaves of the cheque seemed to have been scanned and put back and later a parallel cheque was issued simultaneously," said an official.
The development agency has initiated the process to refund money of around 800 applicants of its various housing schemes that have been abandoned by it. No FIR has been lodged in the matter so far. Neither LDA vice chairman Rajeev Aggarwal nor LDA secretary AP Tiwari were available for comment. Surprisingly, this is not the first time that such brazen and blatant forgery has come to light in the development agency. The racket first reared its head in the LDA a couple of years ago but was hushed up for reasons best known to the authorities. "We do not carry out a very stringent reconciliation of accounts. Hence, we would not be able to know immediately the extent of loss. It's a fit case for a CBI probe though. Let's see whether the investigation is taken to a logical end, this time round," said the official.