CID nabs six accused in multi-crore NGO scam, seizes trust property

NGO trustees arrested for theft of credit card data; cops say accused used data to transfer funds to trust account through e-commerce gateway; scam came to light when bank contacted 'donors' for service charges
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested a gang of five, led by a woman, who misused international credit cards and stole over Rs 15 crore under the pretext of running a charitable trust.

CID investigations reveal that Regina Seelan along with 6 other trustees established  'Salve Regina Charitable Trust" in the city in March 2005 and obtained exemption under section 80G of the Income Tax Act in 2007, and in 2009 obtained permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs to accept contributions under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

It also launched a website - and in June 2009, approached the Merchants Services Wing of the Standard Chartered Bank, Chennai and applied for a e-commerce gateway facility to receive foreign funds.

Those arrested include: Victor D'Souza, treasurer; Christy Solomon, trustee; Thomas P Josephs secretary; Selva Babu website designer. Trust president Regina was also arrested on October 26, 2011.

The NGO stole credit card data online to make fraudulent transactions and investigations reveal that the same was used to transfer cash to the trust account through the e-commerce gateway.

MiD DAY had reported last September when this case came to light after ICICI bank, with which the NGO has a gateway facility to do international online transactions, sought service charges from the cardholders for their contribution to the trust.

The account holders replied to the bank stating that the transactions had taken place without their consent and they refused to pay any service charges.

On this basis, ICICI bank filed a complaint with the cyber crime police on September 9, 2010, seeking a detailed investigation.

Director General of CID, Shankar Bidari said that the Salve Regina Charitable Trust has collected Rs 15.68 crore through 995 fraudulent credit card transactions between July 1 and August 13, 2010. Also, the fraud victims were mostly from the US and other foreign countries.

Investigation has revealed that Regina has purchased eleven properties in Bangalore East Taluk in the name of the trust, which are collectively worth Rs 9 crore.

FCRA violated
When the trust obtained permission to accept foreign contributions under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, they had opened an account in the State Bank of India to receive the foreign contributions.

According to the provisions of the FCRA, the trust was required to credit all the foreign contributions to the designated SBI account, which was not done. Therefore, the trust has violated the provisions of the FCRA act and is also being prosecuted for this violation.

Examination of the seized material has also shown that the accused prepared fake bank deposit receipts to lure members of the public to make deposits with them.

The CID has seized documents related to the fraudulently purchased properties, besides 3 four-wheelers. 
Incriminating documents have also been seized from the residences and offices of the accused, apart from hard disks and laptops.

Telephone records are also being analysed and the bank accounts of the accused persons have been verified. Cash of Rs 2 crore, which was sitting in an account of the trust has also been seized.

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