Covishield manufacturer SII duped of Rs. 1 crore, 7 arrested
In a major cheating and cyber fraud case, the Serum Institute of India (SII) has been duped of Rs. 1 crore. The Pune Police has arrested seven persons so far, but the main accused is absconding. SII, a biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals company based in Pune, is the world's largest vaccine maker (by doses produced and sold). The company also produces the COVID-19 vaccine Covishield.
A WhatsApp message resulted in the loot
As per the police, in September, Satish Deshpande, a director at the SII, received a WhatsApp message from a person who posed as the company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Adar Poonawalla. Deshpande was instructed to transfer an amount of Rs 1,01,01,554 to a few bank accounts from SII's account. Believing it was indeed Poonawalla, Deshpande carried the transactions as instructed on September 7-8.
CEO had not sent any message for transferring money
After the amount was transferred to seven accounts, company officials came to know that Poonawalla had not sent any such message. So, on September 9, SII's financial manager Sagar Kittur registered a police complaint at Bundgarden Police Station. Cops booked unidentified fraudsters under IPC Sections 34, 419, and 420 (cheating, impersonation, dishonesty) and relevant sections of the Information Technology Act to start an investigation.
50 bank accounts were used in the fraud: Police
Police Inspector Ashvini Satpute, who is heading the investigation team, said that the Rs. 1cr transferred by Deshpande was later moved to around 50 bank accounts in different states. After gathering information about the accounts, the police could freeze only Rs. 13 lakh so far. One of the arrested persons got these accounts on a commission basis to transfer proceeds of crime, reported TIE.
Software engineer, bank employee among the arrested
Pune DCP Smartana Patil, during a presser on Friday, said the police arrested seven people accused in the case. It included Prasad Lobudu (software engineer), Rabi Gupta (bank employee), and Yasir Khan (engineering student). However, the first arrest was of Bihar's Chandrabhushan Anand Singh on November 7. Other arrested persons include Kanhaiya Mahto and Rajivkumar Prasad from Bihar and Ravindra Patel from Uttar Pradesh.
Probe is on to know the entire plan: Police
Talking about the case, the police said they suspect that the fraudsters might have found the phone number of Deshpande on the company's website. They said that matter was being investigated to know how the entire crime was planned to defraud SII besides arresting fraudsters. "The main accused is yet to be arrested, more information cannot be shared at this stage," the police said.