Mumbai, Feb 16 (IANS) Revelations about a Rs.140 million (Rs. 14 crores, $3 million) online air ticket scam have just got murkier with the Mumbai Police stumbling upon the alleged involvement of a decorated police official.
Assistant Inspector Tushar Kadam, the recipient of a police award for relief work in the July 26, 2005 deluge, was suspended Thursday after the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) found he had flown for work to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on air tickets obtained by one of the scamsters.
The fraud came to light in January after Kingfisher Airlines lodged a complaint with the EOW Dec 21 regarding the massive scale on which online tickets were being booked fraudulently.
Police said the EOW was investigating whether Kadam was directly involved in the crime or whether he had aided and abetted the accused scamsters.
'Yes, Kadam's name has cropped up during our investigation. We are investigating his exact role in the crime. Kadam had flown on air tickets obtained from the arrested accused,' admitted Additional Commissioner of Police (EOW) Sadanand Date.
Kadam was awarded by police for rescuing stranded Mumbaikars, including a set of twin newborn babies and their parents, at Kalina in west suburban Mumbai during the July 26 deluge.
'We are investigating whether he is directly involved in the crime or whether he aided or abetted the arrested accused. But we can't reveal any more information, as that will affect our case,' Date told IANS.
Sources in the EOW, however, said that Kadam may have known about the whole racket, but had turned a 'blind eye' to the scam in exchange of air tickets.
A nine-member gang of scamsters had purchased some 15,000-airline tickets online 'misusing' credit card information of ICICI Bank credit card holders.
The gang, led by alleged scam mastermind Sameer Kasam Sheikh, used to book airline tickets online by using credit card numbers obtained from hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and other retail outlets.
The gang had intercepted details of 15,225 credit cards from accomplices in hotels, restaurants, malls and retails outlets.
The modus operandi used by the gang was to get hold of the credit card numbers, expiry dates and the customer verification value numbers – the CVV codes or the additional three digits printed on the signature strip at the back of a card and then to log on to the websites of leading private airlines that issued e-mail confirmations of bookings.
Investigations had revealed that the gang used the details to book tickets online and take printouts of the confirmation e-mails, which could be exchanged for boarding passes or tickets. These were then sold to unsuspecting frequent and first time fliers at lower prices.