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Fraudsters dupe Serum Institute of India of Rs 1 crore online

According to police, the fraudsters sent SII director Satish Deshpande a WhatsApp message from a number with a profile photo of chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla, with instructions to transfer the money to some bank accounts.

Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation, CITCO dhaba loss, Punjab news, Chandigarh, Indian Express, current affairsInitial investigation revealed that the money was transferred to 50 bank accounts in different states and then transferred to other accounts. (Representational/File)

Seven suspects from across the country, including a software engineer and a bank officer, have been arrested for their alleged involvement in cheating Serum Institute of India (SII) of Rs 1 crore through a cyber fraud.

According to police, the fraudsters sent SII director Satish Deshpande a WhatsApp message from a number with a profile photo of chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla, with instructions to transfer the money to some bank accounts.

Deshpande believed the message was actually forwarded to him by Poonawalla. So, he carried out the transaction and soon, an amount of Rs 1,01,01,554 was transferred from the SII’s bank account to those bank accounts.

The incident took place between 1.35 pm on September 7 and 2.30 pm on September 8.

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But SII officials later came to know that Poonawalla had not sent any such message. On September 9, the company’s finance manager Sagar Kittur lodged the first information report in this case at the Bundgarden police station.

Police have booked the fraudsters under Indian Penal Code sections 419 (cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 34 (common intention) and sections under the Information Technology Act.

Initial investigation revealed that the money was transferred to 50 bank accounts in different states and then transferred to other accounts.

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Police gathered information about all these bank accounts and managed to freeze Rs 13 lakh. Meanwhile, based on leads received from cyber and technical investigation, police zeroed in on a few suspects and started arresting them. “The first arrest was of Chandrabhushan Singh from Bihar on November 7. During further investigation, we arrested six more persons,” said Inspector Ashvini Satpute .

Police have identified the accused as Rajivkumar Prasad, Chandrabhushan Singh, Kanhaiya Kumar Sambhu Mahto, all three from Bihar, Ravindra Patel of Uttar Pradesh, Rabi Gupta and Yasir Khan of Madhya Pradesh and Prasad Lobudu of Andhra Pradesh.

During a press conference on Friday, Deputy Commissioner of Police Smartana Patil said, “Accused Prasad Lobudu is a software engineer and holds a B.Tech degree. Yasir Khan is currently pursuing B.Tech. Accused Rabi Gupta is a science graduate and works in a prominent private bank. The main accused is yet to be arrested. More people are involved in the fraud and further investigation is on.”

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Responding to questions raised by the media, police said they suspect that the masterminds in this crime may have managed to get Deshpande’s phone number from a website.

Serum Institute is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines and also produces the vaccine Covishield. Police said they were still probing how the crime was planned. “As the key main accused has not been arrested, more information can’t be shared at this stage,” according to Senior Police Inspector Pratap Mankar.

The investigation also revealed that some of the accused earlier committed similar crimes and duped a CRPF officer from Mumbai of Rs 18 lakh and a resident of Agra of Rs 19 lakh.

First published on: 26-11-2022 at 03:18 IST
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