Updated: January 21, 2022 6:55:57 am
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked eight employees posted at a Mumbai office of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) for allegedly siphoning Rs 18.97 crore from a common PF pool through fraudulent withdrawals.
As per the CBI FIR, the eight accused include the mastermind of the fraud, Chandan Kumar Sinha, a clerk at the Kandivali office of EPFO; and his seniors Abhijeet Onekar, Shiva Sankhar Mamadi, Uttam Tagaray, Vijay Jarpe, Dilip Rathod, Ganesh Ghaywat and Seema Bankar, all employees of EPFO at the same branch.
The CBI has booked them under various sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act for cheating, forgery and criminal misconduct. Sources said that Sinha has been absconding since the EPFO fraud came to light in August 2021.
In August 2021, The Indian Express had first reported how Sinha, 37, allegedly used as many as 817 bank accounts of migrant workers to fraudulently claim PF totalling Rs 21.5 crore on their behalf and deposit it in their accounts. Sinha allegedly obtained active bank accounts and Aadhaar details from needy and mostly jobless migrant workers by paying them commissions as low as Rs 5,000, and then opened PF accounts in their names as employees of 20 Mumbai-based companies that had shut down 10-15 years ago to create non-existent physical claims.
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Sinha subsequently processed at least 592 such fake claims worth Rs 17.32 crore while his accomplice Onekar allegedly settled 156 claims worth Rs 4.34 crore and siphoned the money. These claims were then approved by other senior officers of the branch.
According to the EPFO, it detected 833 cases of fraudulent settlements between 2019 to 2021 through 20 dormant establishments in Mumbai. All the eight EPFO officials named in the CBI FIR have been removed from office for their alleged involvement in the fraud.
The EPFO in its complaint to the CBI said, “The modus operandi of the fraudsters was to create bogus PF accounts, show credits between approximately Rs 2 lakh to Rs 4 lakh against each account and draw the amount from these accounts by filing fake claims. Factoring the loss in investment, the wrongful loss to the corpus at the hands of the fraudsters is compounded many times over and above the principal sum of Rs 18.97 crore”.
The EPFO also said that these fake claims were settled to members with bank accounts across the country and the fraud has “pan-India ramifications warranting a detailed investigation and appropriate legal action by the CBI”.
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