India's premier medical institute AIIMS fell prey to a banking fraud as over Rs 12 crore has been stolen from its two bank accounts with the State Bank of India by allegedly using "cloned cheques" over the past one month, official sources said. The money has been siphoned off from the bank accounts the AIIMS has with the State Bank of India (SBI) from its non-home branches in other cities, the sources told PTI.
Even after the fraud came to light, attempts were made to illegally withdraw over Rs 29 crore allegedly using cloned cheques from SBI's non-home branches located in Dehradun and Mumbai in the last one week. However, the attempts were foiled.
The hospital administration has already approached the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police seeking an investigation into the scam.
According to an official, fraud cheque leaves presented at SBI's branches passed UV ray tests, and in most of the cases, the original cheque leaves with same series were still in the possession of the institute, the AIIMS said in a report to the health ministry.
It said the SBI has failed to follow verification protocol while clearing cheques at non-home branches and asked the bank to deposit the stolen amount.
The sources said the fraudsters attempted to withdraw over Rs 20 crore from a non-home branch of SBI in Dehradun while Rs 9 crore was attempted to be stolen from a branch of the bank in Mumbai.
"Prima facie there is no evidence suggesting direct role or complicity of AIIMS officials as the signatures of authorised signatories also seem to be forged.
"The payments released or stopped can straight away be attributed to failure of control mechanism in SBI bank and its branches. Hence, the loss doesn't pertain to AIIMS," the AIIMS said in its report.
The sources said over Rs 7 crore was fraudulently withdrawn from the institute's main account with the SBI which is operated by the AIIMS Director. Another amount of Rs 5 crore was taken out from another account held by the Dean, Research of AIIMS.
After the fraud came to light, the SBI has alerted all its branches and has advised its employees against paying high value cheques issued by AIIMS, New Delhi.
"Branches not to pay high value cheques issued by AIIMS, New Delhi, A/c No. 10874584010 maintained with AIIMS New Delhi Branch (01536).
"Huge number of cloned cheques paid across the country -- AGM, Fraud Monitoring Cell," read a message circulating in the internal whatsapp group of the SBI's staff.
Further, the bank has sent an alert message which is popping up as soon as employees working in the transaction department open their systems.
As per instructions of the bank, if a cheque worth over Rs 2 Lakh is presented at any non-home branch, then it has to contact the customer to get a confirmation before clearing the cheque or even transferring money, said an SBI official.
Additionally, the non-home branches are required to contact the home branch to confirm the details of the account holder in case of high-value cheques. Banks also send an SMS alert to account holder when cheques are received in clearing.
A bank official said that cheques amounting to Rs 25,000 and more are examined under ultraviolet lamp.
Also, as per the instructions of the Reserve Bank of India, if a bank fraud of beyond Rs 3 crore is reported then the bank registers a complaint with the CBI. It is not immediately known whether the SBI has approached the CBI in the current case.