SIGNBOARDS, LOCKERS, computer systems, receipts, challans, even a website — it was a pleasant surprise for the customer who walked in a week ago. The SBI had opened a new branch at Panruti Bazaar near his house in Cuddalore, about 200 km south of Chennai. Or so, he thought.
It turned out everything was fake — all the accessories, and the branch itself.
The fake branch came to light when the customer contacted his local SBI manager and asked for his account to be shifted to the “new branch”. The manager called the zonal office to complain that another branch in the area would destroy his team’s business.
“That was when they realised there was a fake branch running. Police were informed…we paid a visit and took three persons in custody,” said an officer who is part of the investigation.
Police say the fake branch was started in April when strict curbs under the Covid lockdown was in place, making it easier to avoid scrutiny. “But the scam was busted before the accused could loot money from people with fake transactions or deposits. There were a couple of enquiries from customers, that’s all. But the probe is still on, seeking information about possible investments or cheating,” the officer said.
According to police, among those arrested is 19-year-old Kamal Babu, whose parents were both former bank employees. “He had a clear idea about banking operations. His father died about 10 years ago, and Babu had been applying for jobs in the banking sector,” the officer said.
The other two arrested have been identified as A Kumar (42) and M Manickam (52), who were in the printing business. “The three of them have been charged with forgery and remanded in judicial custody,” said K Ambedkar, Inspector at the Panruti police station.
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