Before the Bank of Maharashtra lodged complaints in Pune and Bhayander regarding money being siphoned off using the United Payments Interface (UPI) mobile application, complaints first emerged in Aurangabad district where two of the main accused are from. In the second week of March, the bank approached the Aurangabad City police after an internal audit revealed that Rs 9.6 crore had been siphoned off. After FIRs were registered at four police stations, a special investigation team was formed to probe the fraud.
A senior police official said that seven people have been arrested so far while several others have been granted anticipatory bail. “None of those arrested so far are the main accused. They are only account holders at the bank whose accounts were used to route the money. We are still on the trail of the main accused,” he said.
Like in Pune and Bhayander, the accused in Aurangabad took advantage of a bug in the UPI App, which was developed by a Mumbai-based firm, InfrasiofTetch, and launched last year by the National Payments Corporation of India to facilitate the transfer of money instantly.
Several “request money” transactions of Rs 1 lakh each were made, which the bank’s server approved even though the accounts did not have sufficient funds, due to the bug, the police said. “We are making inquiries with the banks and the firm which developed the software to find if there are any insiders who helped discover the bug,” said the official.
On March 17, the bank registered complaints at three police stations in Aurangabad Rural police district after fraudulent transactions were made by account holders at nine branches, resulting in a loss of Rs. 1.6 crore, the police said. Superintendent of Police N D Reddy said that the links of the accused to those who committed the crime in Pune and Bhayander are being investigated. “We are looking for the same people,” he added. The investigation is being carried out by the Economic Offences Wing.
An officer from the EOW said that the individuals whose accounts were used to carry out the fraudulent transactions are farmers and come from poor backgrounds. Some of the accused have begun returning the money, the others are in the process of returning it. The Thane Rural police is looking for Aurangabad natives Bharat Gawale and Deepak, who presently live in Bhayander and allegedly roped in 20 account holders there to defraud the bank of Rs 1.42 crore.