The Assam Police has opened communication with other states to track a possible pan-India bank fraud network that has been withdrawing money from government accounts using forged financial instruments like cheques. The state had earlier alerted at least a dozen states after a probe into a bank fraud in the Chief Minister's Relief Fund found that a gang had been withdrawing public money from government accounts, sources have said.
The matter came to light after a five-member gang from Uttar Pradesh's Basti was busted last week by the Assam Chief Minister's special Vigilance cell. The gang allegedly ran a wider pan-India network.
These five men have allegedly stolen close to Rs 4 lakh from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund by forging his signature four times on fake cheques. The Chief Minister's Office discovered the fraud during an audit last month and ordered an investigation.
The suspects were eventually traced to Lucknow, Gorakhpur and Basti in Uttar Pradesh based on the addresses mentioned with the bank.
After their arrest by a joint team of the Assam and UP Police on August 27, they were brought to Guwahati. A special court in the city has sent them to eight-day police remand.
A team of seven policemen from the Chief Minister's special vigilance cell led by Rosie Kalita rushed to Uttar Pradesh, and based on tower locations of the gang's mobile phones, the five accused were picked up from three different areas in Basti. Their tower locations were continuously monitored for a week before the operation, sources have said.
Bank frauds using phishing are common; however, this gang chose the traditional mode of printing fake cheques of the Chief Minister's Relief Fund account and deposited in bank branches in other states, police sources said.
The money would then be credited into their personal accounts. They made four withdrawals in total. The police said the signatures did not quite match in every cheque, yet State Bank of India (SBI) cleared them, the sources said.
As per rules, if a bank clears a cheque where it is evident that the signature of the account holder or authorised signatory is not matching, then it's a fault on the bank's part and they refund the amount.
During questioning, the gang said they have been involved in cheating more government accounts in the past in places like Mumbai. Based on this information, the Assam Police alerted other states on suspicion that the gang could be operation a cross-country network.