The Mumbai Police Crime Branch has arrested 18 people following a complaint of cheating and forgery filed by a senior editor of The Times of India against a personal assistant, who is alleged to have made payments totalling Rs 15.07 crore over four years to “part-time contributors who apparently never wrote for the newspaper”.
The police said Amit Mayekar, personal assistant to Derick D’sa, the newspaper’s Associate Executive Editor, was responsible for issuing payments to freelance journalists who contributed to the newspaper. But, the police said Mayekar allegedly created a bogus domain and got the complainant to “sign invoices which were prepared in the name of people who never contributed to the edition”.
D’Sa said in his statement to the police that as it was a routine process, he trusted Mayekar completely and used to sign all the invoices of part-time contributors that were presented to him by Mayekar. “The process would be incomplete without my signature,” said D’sa in his statement to the police on April 30.
In his statement, D’sa said that as he had a huge responsibility, he had to travel a lot and hence had also shared the password of his official email address with his three secretaries. The police said the contributors were paid through bank transfers after they were registered in the system with a copy of their PAN card and a cancelled cheque.
“Those arrested are either Mayekar’s friends or relatives whose bank accounts were used to transfer the amount claiming that they contributed to the edition. Later, these account holders would withdraw the amount and hand it over to the mastermind for which they were rewarded with a small percentage,” said a police officer.
The incident came to light after the complainant was informed by the accounts department about the suspicious invoices forwarded by Mayekar. The complainant told his editorial and accounts department to investigate following which they learnt that the 78 people who were paid for their “contribution” to the newspaper since January 2013 had never written for any of the editions of the newspaper in the country.
The amount which was transferred to the alleged beneficiaries over four years was Rs 15.07crore, the police said.
D’sa then approached Azad Maidan police station and registered a case. The probe was later transferred to the Economic Offences Wing and then to the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Mumbai Crime Branch. The police have registered the case under relevant sections of conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating and forgery. The 18 accused were produced in court on Monday and remanded in police custody till Friday.
Mayekar, who is on the run, had sought anticipatory bail from the sessions court last week. The court, which refused to grant him interim relief, will hear the plea on Thursday.