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Explained: What is the case of bank data theft that Pune police is probing?

Pune police said their cyber crime wing had arrested eight persons, including four IT engineers and a Marathi actor-filmmaker, for allegedly trying to sell data of five bank accounts of corporate entities containing deposits of over Rs 216 crore.

Written by Sushant Kulkarni , Edited by Explained Desk | Pune |
March 18, 2021 2:12:00 pm
Pune Police (Express Photo/File)

The Pune City police are investigating a case of theft and attempted sale of sensitive data of corporate bank accounts having deposits of over Rs 216 crore. A look at what the case is, how did the Pune police uncover it with a decoy operation, and what lies ahead in the probe?

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What is the case of bank data theft?

Pune police said on Tuesday that their cyber crime wing had arrested eight persons, including four IT engineers and a Marathi actor-filmmaker, for allegedly trying to sell data of five bank accounts of corporate entities, some of them dormant, containing deposits of over Rs 216 crore.

Some of the arrested suspects, including the IT engineers, were in possession of crucial data pertaining to these bank accounts. They were in touch with potential buyers, some of whom were among those initially arrested. Police said that five bank accounts whose sensitive data was in possession of the suspects, were in two leading private sector banks and some of them had not seen any recent activity. After verifying the authenticity of the data from the banks, police alerted the entities holding these accounts.

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How was the case uncovered with a decoy operation?

While it is still being investigated how suspects from various locations and different professional backgrounds came together, police say that the monetary losses incurred during the COVID slowdown and debts could be the main reason. A woman from Pune, who was among two more arrested on Wednesday, played a key role in bringing together the two parties — those who had the stolen data and those who were willing to pay large sums to get it and use it to siphon funds from these accounts.

While these two sides were in touch, what they did not have was the cyber knowhow to use the data for siphoning off the funds. It is around this time that the Pune police’s Cyber crime cell received the tip-off about the conspiracy and started monitoring the movements of the suspects. An elaborate decoy operation was planned and two cops were sent in as cyber experts, and started engaging with the suspects. After confirming key details in this operation, the police made first arrests on Monday and Tuesday, thus preventing the data from further falling into the wrong hands.

How many arrests have been made so far?

Initially, six persons were arrested, including a man who has acted in a few Marathi films, TV serials and has made a few ad films through his company. He has also been associated with the film wing of a political party and is the son of a veteran film and TV actor. Information given by these suspects further led police to an address on Sinhagad Road in Pune, where two more persons were arrested.

Two more arrests were made on Wednesday taking the total number of arrests in the case to 10. The latest arrests included a woman who is believed to have been instrumental in bringing the suspects together. Another arrest was of a man who is proprietor of a local news channel from Aurangabad in Maharashtra and was one of the persons set to receive the stolen data. Police have not officially disclosed the names of the arrested suspects, saying it could jeopardise sensitive leads they are working on. More arrests are likely with 10 teams of Pune City Cyber Crime cell currently working on various leads in the case.

What lies ahead in the investigation?

Some of the key leads that the investigation teams are now trying to piece together are how the data was stolen in the first place — whether it was stolen directly from the banks or through the entities hired by banks to maintain or secure their data. Initially, police teams even checked whether the data they had recovered from the suspects was genuine or not. But subsequent to communications with the bank, it has come to light that data pertaining to the five corporate accounts is genuine.

Police probe is also looking into possible involvement of persons still serving with the banks or with the entities hired by the banks. Like any other crime investigation, police teams will also look into whether the arrested persons were involved in any other similar conspiracy in the past or present, officials part of the probe team said.

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