December 30, 2010
Gurgaon: A Citibank manager accused of cheating investors of what is now said to be Rs.200 crore after promising to double their money continues to be on the run, police said Wednesday, a day after one of India's biggest banking frauds came to light.
The Gurgaon police has so far sealed 81 bank accounts of different banks into which Shivraj Puri, the bank's relationship manager here had transferred money.
"At least Rs.200 crore have been transferred from Puri's account to these 81 accounts," Gurgaon Police Commissioner S.S. Deswal said.
Haryana Police has issued a lookout circular for Puri after failing to track him down.
His passport details have been sent to all international airports in the country to prevent him from fleeing, said a police officer in this upscale satellite town adjoining the Indian capital.
Puri reportedly managed to con high net worth investors after forging Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) documents purportedly offering lucrative returns which he said enjoyed Citibank's backing.
Of the sealed 81 accounts, three are in the State Bank of India in the name of his relatives, 18 in Citibank and remaining 60 in different banks.
SEBI has denied the existence of schemes made popular by Puri.
Since the task of opening new accounts had been assigned to Puri, he managed to dupe several people without the bank's knowledge.
In the process, he opened as many as 18 accounts in various banks and asked those who fell into his trip to put their money in them.
Police and bank sources had initially estimated that he duped people of over Rs.100 crore before he was busted this week, unveiling one of the biggest frauds in the Indian banking industry in recent times.
Police said they had recovered Rs.3.85 crore of the duped money.
Some of the accounts he opened were in the Gurgaon branch of Citibank and in the name of his relatives Premnath, Sheela and Deeksha.
"Initial investigation has revealed he opened 18 accounts and transferred huge amounts. We have recovered Rs.3.85 crore and are investigating the involvement of his three relatives," a police officer said.
But police are baffled because none of the victims of the fraud has come forward to claim the money.
Citibank has said it too was investigating the mammoth fraud but assured customers that their money was safe.
"We recently initiated an investigation into a certain set of suspicious transactions based on documents forged by an employee involving a few accounts in our Gurgaon branch. We immediately reported the matter to all the relevant regulatory and law enforcement authorities," a spokesperson said.
"This issue does not impact other accounts, transactions or customers of the bank," the official added.
Cases of cheating and forgery have been registered at the DLF Phase 2 police station. The Gurgaon police commissioner has constituted five police teams to solve the case.