In a multi-crore fraud, scores of daily wage labourers in two southern districts of Tamil Nadu have received bank notices to repay loans running into lakhs of rupees each after a gang allegedly duped them and used their signatures to get the advances.
Some of the 'borrowers' have reportedly died under mysterious circumstances, though the police refused to link the deaths with the racket.
Using signatures of the labourers, bank accounts were opened, warehouse certificates procured based on agricultural produce and loans taken -- all done allegedly without the knowledge of the labourers, police said.
However, police declined to specify the exact number of people affected, saying investigations were on.
Five persons -- O M S Velmurugan and Shenbagan, the prime accused, Solairaj, Sannasi and Kalaiselvi -- have been arrested on charges of conning scores of daily wage labourers in Virudhunagar and Theni districts under the garb of getting them free insurance policies, they said.
A case has been registered in a police station in Theni district on complaints by five persons, including Veyil Muthu Alaguraja, one of the victims.
According to the FIR, Alaguraja, a labourer, was working for Velmurugan. A year ago, his signature was taken by the accused under the pretext of getting him an insurance policy.
However, recently Alaguraja received a notice from State Bank of India's Periyakulam Branch in Theni District seeking repayment of Rs 40.14 lakh loan, it said.
When he approached the accused, Alaguraja was threatened of dire consequences by them if he sought police intervention.
An officer investigating the case said signatures of several such labourers had been taken to secure loans in a similar manner.
A relative of another victim said his nephew received a similar notice from a bank asking him to repay Rs 20 lakh.
"The accused have conned several people in several places in Virudhunagar and Theni districts," Ganesan said, adding he has been flagging the issue since April last year and had written to the Reserve Bank of India seeking its intervention.
An SBI official said they were discussing the issue with concerned departments and also weighing legal options.
"Right now, we are in the process. We are in discussions with the respective departments," the official told PTI on condition of anonymity.