A senior Punjab National Bank (PNB) manager and four others have been arrested by the Delhi Police for allegedly siphoning off money from bank accounts using cloned cheques, police said on Tuesday. Police said the gang was working across the country.
The mastermind, Chirag Chaudhary, a debt-ridden restaurant owner from central Delhi is currently in the US. Police said Chaudhary fled after he realised police were after his syndicate. Senior police officers said that they are in the process of issuing a look out circular (LOC) against Chaudhary.
The five men had recently siphoned off Rs95 lakh from the PNB account of a south Delhi-based NGO and transferred the amount to another account of the bank in Haryana’s Kurukshetra using a cloned cheque and forged signatures, said police. Police said the men in connivance with bank officials accessed confidential database of high-valued bank accounts and used it to prepare duplicate cheques for siphoning off money from such accounts.
The arrested persons were identified as Pritam Das, senior PNB manager from south Delhi’s Khanpur branch, Gaurav Kumar Goel, Ashish Kumar Parashar, Amarjeet Singh and Sunil Sharma. Over 80 duplicate cheques of various public and private banks, fake stamps and samples of signatures of genuine account holders and other items used for cloning cheques were recovered from them.
Despite several calls and a text message, there was no response from PNB over the issue.
Chinmoy Biswal, additional deputy commissioner of police (south district), said that the gang had accessed 30 bank accounts of 17 public and private banks in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Dibrugarh, and Chandigarh. During the investigation into the complaint filed by the NGO, police learnt that a cloned cheque was used to transfer Rs95 lakh from their account to another account of the bank in Haryana’s Kurukshetra.
“The complainant told us that the money was transferred even when the original cheque was in their possession and it was never issued to anybody. The account in which the money was transferred belonged to a private firm in Kurukshetra. We nabbed the firm owner, Amarjeet Singh, and interrogated him,” said Biswal.
Singh revealed that the cheque in question had been given to him by one Rajiv Gupta and his associates. He admitted for the fraudulent money transfer in his account after they promised him a commission of Rs30 lakh. Singh, however, did not know anything about Gupta except that the registration number of the Volkswagen car in which they travelled. Police traced the owner of the vehicle.
“The car was sold to five different persons. But we managed to track the present owner, Gaurav Kumar Goel. Goel confessed to contacting Singh by impersonating himself as Rajiv Gupta. Several duplicate cheques and other incriminating materials were recovered from him,” Biswal said, adding Goel’s interrogation led to the other accused.
- Step 1: The fraudsters conspire with bank officials and access confidential database of high-valued accounts such as account holders’ details, signatures, stamps, details of the issued chequebooks, available amount in the account, etc. The ‘insiders’ also supply blank cheque leaflets to them.
- Step 2: The fraudsters erase the Indian Financial System Code (IFSC) and Magnetic Ink Character Recognition Code (MICR ) and other details related to the account holder from the cheque by using extremely sharp blades to chip away the printed codes
- Step 3: The codes and other details of the compromised account are then reprinted on the cheque using some special ink procured from certain grey markets of West Bengal. The reprinting in the particular format is done using Corel Draw software and customised ink cartridges
- Step 4: The fraudsters then involve an account holder of the same bank and transfer the money from the compromised bank account to the other account holder, who agrees for the fraud in lieu of a 30 to 40% commission in the siphoned off money.
- Step 5: The transferred money is then transferred to various accounts opened using forged documents
Goel’s interrogation revealed he prepared forged cheques on commission basis. The cheques were made available to him for ‘sale’ by a network of operators, primary among them was Chirag Chaudhary of Delhi.
Police said the men with the help of bank officials accessed confidential database of high valued accounts such as account holders’ details, signatures and stamps, details of the issued chequebooks, available amount in the account. The ‘insiders’ also supply blank cheque leaflets to them. “Das had supplied the confidential database of the NGO’s account to the racketeers,” Biswal added.
“Parashar used to erase the Indian Financial System Code (IFSC) and Magnetic Ink Character Recognition Code (MICR ) and other details related to the account holder from the cheque using a sharp object. The codes and other details of the compromised account were then reprinted on the cheque using some special ink procured from certain grey markets of West Bengal.”
“The reprinting in the particular format was being done using Corel Draw software and customized ink cartridges. Further the cloned cheque was used to withdraw or transfer money from genuine customer’s account,” said an investigator.