Chandigarh Police Arrested Two, But the NRI Is Still Waiting for His Rs1.33 Crore Withdrawn Fraudulently; No Help from RBI or Bank of India
Dr Ajay Sood, a non-resident Indian (NRI) based in the US has been given the run-around for over four months by Bank of India (BOI) after he found that Rs1.33 crore had suddenly vanished from his account. Today, the Indian Express reports that the police in Chandigarh had arrested two people who are allegedly members of an interstate gang. But what about Dr Sood’s money? Not a small sum, but a whopping Rs 1.33 crore? The case exposes the pointlessness of Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) rules to protect consumers from digital fraud, if Dr Sood is kept hanging for months when BOI is fully aware that he is not at fault.  
 
RBI, after long campaigning by Moneylife Foundation had finally cleared the rules governing digital fraud which require the money to be credited instantly. However, Dr Sood is still waiting for his Rs1.33 crore to be credited, despite repeated appeals to the RBI governor’s office, the deputy governor, the chief general manager (Customer services) and a persistent follow-up by Moneylife Foundation’s counselling cell. All he has are emails and assurances from BOI that money will be credited to his account.
 
What is all the more shocking is that this case pertains to a fake Aadhaar being submitted to the Bank on Dr Sood’s account. The investigating officer from economic offences wing (EOW) of Chandigarh police told Dr Sood about the change in his mobile number and submission of Aadhaar on 11 May 2018. Despite the fact that being an NRI, he is not required to have an Aadhaar. But before we go into it, some background.
 
As reported by Moneylife, this amount was withdrawn from Dr Sood's account in BOI, even when the original cheques are still with him. He also found that his registered mobile number was changed and an Aadhaar number, which he does not have, was added in his account details in the Bank. 
 
Dr Sood found that Rs98 lakh from his account were transferred to one Sachin Yadav from Gurgaon and Rs35 lakh to one Mukesh Thakur from Ujjain.  Dr Sood claims that these two individuals are not being questioned by the police or the Bank. In fact, he says that the Bank official kept insisting that someone known to him would have done the transactions while strongly denying any involvement of Bank employee/s. 
 
Moneylife Foundation took up the issue with RBI and BOI. We asked Dr Sood to fax, email and call the RBI governor’s office. Each time, he was directed to some other department. Interestingly, most calls to RBI’s customer services department are not answered or lead to little action. Moneylife Foundation’s credit counselling cell also raised the issue with RBI and BOI. After these efforts, on 1 October 2018, NK Das, assistant general manager at BOI's Chandigarh branch told Dr Sood that the payment (credit) was under process. 
 
"We request your kind reference towards your complaint of unauthorised withdrawal of Rs1.33 cr. from your SB a/c 6*************9 with our branch. We wish to inform you that the matter of payment of this amount to you is under process and will take some time. You are requested to kindly bear with us for some more time," the AGM had stated in an email to Dr Sood.
 
However, till date, Dr Sood has not received his money. In fact, four weeks after promising to return his money, he was asked to submit original cheques. “I have sent the cheques to my attorney in Chandigarh to share them with the bank without handing them over as I do not feel safe giving them the original cheques,” Dr Sood had said. 
 
According to a report from Indian Express, Chandigarh police have arrested Mahesh Malli and Rajesh Upadhaya from Ujjain in connection with the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs1.33 crore from Dr Sood's bank account. The police said the two are the members of an interstate gang, which was involved in fraudulent transfers of crores of rupees from several bank accounts in Gurgaon, Delhi, MP and Punjab. 
 
In Chandigarh, the involvement of the gang was came to light in two cases in which the gang members withdrew around Rs 1.87 crore from the accounts of Dr Sood and from the account of one Sulakshana Devi, a retired government employee, in July 2018.
 
Earlier, the police arrested four men—the owner of Bablu Cycle Services, a franchisee of a leading cycle brand in Mehidpur in Ujjain, Mukesh Kumar, along with Sachin Yadav of Gurugram, Satish Yadav of Mahendragarh in Haryana, and Avinash Prajapati of Ujjain—in this connection. All four are currently lodged at Model Burail jail, the newspaper report says.
 
Police sources told Indian Express that the mastermind of this gang is still absconding. The mastermind, whose identity cannot be disclosed, used to pay them commission ranging from Rs50,000 to Rs3 lakh. People arrested by police were aware of the fact that their bank accounts were being used in the crime.
 
Quoting Sukhraj Katewa, deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in the EOW, the report says, “Police investigation reveals the gang members used to clone the confidential details of account holders. Cloned details included the procuring duplicate cheque books and the signatures of account holders. In the case of Dr Ajay Sood and Sulakshna Devi, accused procured the duplicate cheques of the NRI doctor and woman, and transferred the amount in two instalments with fake signatures of the complainant. The mastermind of the gang is still absconding. We are also verifying the role of Bank of India staff members. So far, no involvement of bank employees has come to light.”
 
Dr Sood had a joint account with his mother and brother in BOI. In December 2017, as per their mutual agreement, the account was transferred in Dr Sood's sole name as non-resident ordinary (NRO) account. This account had all the lifetime savings of his mother as she wanted him to care for her in her old age. Dr Sood continues to have in his possession the chequebook issued at the time when the NRO account was opened. 
 
However, while checking his statements on 20 July 2018, he found that there were two withdrawals of Rs98 lakh and Rs35 lakh using cheques from his NRO account. To his utter shock, he found two cheque numbers from the chequebook in his possession in the US that were used to withdraw Rs1.33 crore. Dr Sood says he neither shared the cheque numbers nor any cheque with anyone. Yet, Rs1.33 crore were withdrawn from his bank account in Chandigarh.
 
After speaking with an official dealing with NRI accounts, he filed a complaint with the bank manager in Chandigarh. 
 
By engaging a local lawyer, Dr Sood, on 10 August 2018 also filed a first information report (FIR) with the EOW of Chandigarh police. 
 
Talking about linking of Aadhaar with his bank account, Dr Sood, had told Moneylife “The Aadhaar card apparently has the same picture as my bank records. It states name of my father as Surender whereas my father's actual name is Dharam Inder. I have no Aadhaar card linked to my bank account since NRO accounts do not have such a requirement. I do not know if they used a PAN card, and whether that corresponds to the one in my bank records. There was a fraudulent communication with the bank in my name via a non-registered email before a bank official approved transfer my funds. Someone was aware of my account balance since almost the entire amount was transferred.” 
 
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    COMMENTS

    Meenal Mamdani

    2 years ago

    I totally agree with your assessment.
    While the majority of bank employees are individuals with integrity, there are a few bad apples who are protected because they are related to someone higher up the chain of command.
    Banks should create a redressal policy online such that if the money is not returned within the stipulated period, then a hefty interest rate should be added as penalty. Also the person sitting on the case without resolving it is penalized both monetarily and administratively.

    Parimal Shah

    2 years ago

    This is possible only with bank staff connivance. Staff knows which accounts are dormant and how to change registered mobile number and must have guided the goons to perform the trick. The uncaring attitude of the bank also corroborates this possibility.

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