The doors have been bolted shut and the windows sealed with iron grills. The Hari Nagar branch of SRKM Education and Welfare Society, which provided fake education certificates across the country, is now deserted. But a few months ago, the centre was abuzz with students who would pay a nominal fee for certificates. The office, owned by Pankaj Arora, would collect the fee and transfer it to around 30 bank accounts. When police arrested Pankaj and raided the office, they found that none of the ‘agents’ who sold fake certificates knew each other personally. “The entire racket was operated on WhatsApp,” a police officer said.
Pankaj, who is married to a DU professor, used to run a salon on the premises but suffered losses. “The office changed its signboard several times over the past eight years. Earlier, they set up a property dealing business board, a salon, infrastructure business and then SRKM society,” Anmolakh, a neighbour, said.
Police said Pankaj then decided to get into the fake degree business. A Google search threw up Pawiter Singh’s WhatsApp number. “They got in touch and Pankaj decided to become the Delhi agent,” an officer said.
Pawiter, the Class X topper from his village in Ludhiana and the second accused, ran a coaching centre. Police said he found that there was a huge demand for school passing certificates among students and decided to start the racket. Gopal Krishna, the third accused, owned a printing shop in Ludhiana. Police said he would print as many as 1,000 certificates each month.
However, the accused got sloppy as they used one number to operate all bank accounts. “The number got 3,000 texts from the banks daily. We just had to track it,” the officer said.
Initially, police went on a wild goose chase, sitting out in fields and combing through villages, only to find the signal fade and Pawiter escape. However, they caught him when he appeared in a Delhi court in connection with previous criminal cases. “He had started the racket again to pay his lawyer. We just waited for his court date,” the officer said.