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News: How cheque with phone number at back was all he needed for Rs 1.4 crore fraud-21-08-2021


GURUGRAM: Familiarity with the banking system and access to key information helped conman Praveen Mittal execute a series of banking frauds in three different states, including the withdrawal of nearly Rs 1.4 crore from the account of a farmer in Gurugram who had received compensation from the government for land acquisition. Police are probing the role of some bank officials in the case.
Till a week ago, police were clueless about the 48-year-old’s real identity and only had CCTV footage from the bank branch where the farmer had his account, which they collected in 2019. To expedite the probe, Gurugram police had recently formed a special investigation team (SIT) under ACP Karan Goel to track the accused and announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh on Mittal’s head.
According to police, Mittal is part of a gang that might have executed several banking frauds amounting to crores in Haryana, Rajasthan and UP. Six men who are allegedly members of the gang were arrested last month — Delhi residents Sanjeev Yadav, Hari Singh, Hitesh Goyal, Amit Chandana, Prem Kumar and Sachin Gupta. None of them, however, was aware of Mittal’s real identity, a police officer said, adding that they were involved in issuing SIM cards without the required documents, which were used for frauds.

After hitting a roadblock in the probe, the SIT changed track and started checking jail records in different states to trace people who had committed similar crimes. They found that Mittal had been lodged in Faridabad jail last year for a banking fraud and later released on bail. “He had jumped bail. We managed to track his location to Delhi and he was arrested on Thursday,” said ACP (DLF) Karan Goel.

Mittal told cops that he had easy access to banks as a loan agent. In 2018, he managed to lay his hands on a cheque issued by farmer Leela Ram (65) in Gurugram. The account number, name and mobile number were mentioned on the back of the cheque. Using the mobile number, Mittal managed to get Ram’s personal details. “He got fake Aadhaar and PAN cards made. Posing as the farmer at the Sector 10 branch of the nationalised bank where Ram had his account, he got the mobile number linked to the account changed,” inspector Anand Yadav, in-charge of the Sector 31 crime unit, said.


“As the account had a daily withdrawal limit of Rs 40,000 on one ATM card, he got seven cards issued and withdrew around Rs 3 lakh in a day using them,” Anand said. An FIR was filed against unidentified people after the fraud came to light in 2019 (Mittal hadn't been identified as the accused then).

Police recently started probing the role of bank officials in the crime. “Ram’s mobile number was changed by officials without proper verification and the roles of the branch’s assistant manager and manager are being investigated,” ACP Goel said. The bank officials approached the Gurugram court seeking anticipatory bail, but their plea was rejected. They then approached the Punjab and Haryana high court earlier this month. While hearing their plea on August 16, Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi of the high court directed the chief general manager of the bank to appear before the court in person on August 23 and explain what action has been taken against the officials for negligence.

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