Mumbai photographer duped of Rs 31 lakh

Updated: May 12, 2019, 07:23 IST | Anamika Gharat

A friend of nine years had allegedly been siphoning off money from the accounts of LGBTQ activist Monisha Ajgaonkar

Mumbai photographer duped of Rs 31 lakh
Nidhi Shetty (right) and Monisha Ajgaonkar in good times

Tilak Nagar cops have arrested a 31-year-old woman for allegedly siphoning off and cheating well-known photographer and videographer Monisha Ajgaonkar. Cops have arrested Nidhi Shetty, who was handling the functioning of Monisha's company, The Photo Diary, since 2012 and found a discrepancy in the accounts. Shetty has been produced in court, which has remanded her to police custody.

Ajgaonkar, who is a much-coveted name in the wedding circles, is also an LGBTQ rights activist. In 2010-11, Ajgaonkar met Shetty through a common friend. The two became thick, and almost like "family", says Ajgaonkar. In September 2017, Shetty was given the task of managing the accounts, finance, clients and data for the firm. It was all good, until Ajgaonkar started getting vague answers whenever she asked Shetty about money.

"Whenever Ajgaonkar needed to travel abroad, Shetty would tell her that they didn't have enough funds. Monisha was taken aback since she had been working tirelessly and couldn't understand where the money was going. To get to the bottom of this, Ajgaonkar asked another employee in the firm to keep track of the records," said Abhineet Sharma, advocate to Ajgaonkar. He added, "Within a few months, it was clear that many entries of client payments and office expenses were missing."

When Ajgaonkar started checking the money trail with clients, Shetty had taken payments in cash and not made a record of those. Ajgaonkar also discovered that data and files of her work were also missing from her office. When she found out that more than Rs 30 lakh had been siphoned off, she asked Shetty for an explanation. Shetty promised to give clarity, but instead left the firm in December 2018. "She had bought a car, and was living a lavish life, while I was always wanting of money. After working on a balance sheet and accounts, we found out that more than Rs 30 lakh had been siphoned off by Shetty, I wrote an application to Tilak Nagar police station, and an offence was registered eventually," Ajgaonkar said.

Shetty was arrested on May 7, and booked under IPC Section 406 (criminal breach of trust), 408 (criminal breach of trust by servant), 420 (cheating). She was produced in Vikhroli Metropolitan Magistrate court, which remanded her in police custody till May 13. "We are checking the accounts to find out how much money has been taken by Nidhi. The complainant claimed that the money has been accepted and kept in hiding by the accused. We are yet to ascertain that," said a senior police officer. The estimated amount can go up to Rs 70 lakh.

"After Nidhi quit the firm, her brother Pratham started threatening me. He tried his hand as a photographer in my firm, but couldn't perform well. When he found out that his sister has been caught while cheating, he started abusing me," says Ajgaonkar, adding, "He threatened me against registering an offence. I have urged cops to book Pratham as well, and my advocates Shrikant Sonkawade and Abhineet Sharma are working on it."

Also read: Mumbai Crime: Failed actor turns to chain snatching in local trains

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