The Howrah police has arrested seven persons and cracked down on an inter-state bank fraud racket that allegedly used duplicate cheques to cheat people of “crores of rupees”.
Police said that on November 20, the manager of Canara Bank’s Salkia branch submitted a complaint, stating that one of the accused, Anish Kumar Thakur (21), withdrew Rs 6.3 lakh by dodging the new image-based cheque system. Thakur submitted a cheque to Canara Bank; when the bank tried to process it, they found a mismatch in the signature, said police. When the bank contacted the original owner of the cheque, the bank realised it was forged, following which police arrested Thakur on Saturday.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (North Howrah) Amit Kumar B Rathod said the other accused, arrested based on inputs from Thakur, are Manish Gupta (21), Ranjan Yadav (27), Irfan Ali (34), Zunaid Alam alias Rinku (40), Mohammad Tauhid Alam alias Guddu (36) and Sandik Ali alias Ajay Singh (22). Anish and Manish are Howrah residents, Ranjan, Irfan and Junaid are from Bihar while Tauhid and Sandik were arrested from Kolkata, he said.
Police also seized forged cheque books of five nationalised banks and six private banks as well as 30 ATM cards. Sources said the accused also faked the magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) data. Investigators suspect that the fraud used hawala routes to siphon money to foreign shores.
“The accused used to call each other on WhatsApp. We suspect they have links to Pakistan and Dubai. Once the cheque used to get cleared, they would transfer money to different ATM accounts. We suspect that some expert duplicate cheque makers are also involved. We are trying to find how and where they used to draft duplicate cheques,” said a police officer.
Police did not rule out the involvement of bank staff in the matter.
“A meticulous investigation will be conducted. There is a possibility of insider’s role but it’s too early to say anything”, said a police officer.