Thursday, January 1, 2009

Housewife in net for card fraud - - 29 Dec 08

NEW DELHI: To her neighbours in upscale Rana Pratap Bagh, Kanika Buddhiraja (27) was just another housewife. She had studied in a Mussoorie convent, then graduated from one of the best colleges in Delhi, before settling down with her textile merchant husband.

For her Thailand-based mother Karampal Kaur Shetty, Kanika was a "partner'' in the Rs 5 crore e-ticketing fraud the family had engineered over the last one year. The duo, along with Kanika's brother Sarabjit Singh, allegedly started this "business'' two years ago soon after Kanika's father died. The racket was unearthed when Delhi Police sleuths along with their counterparts from Kolkata arrested three persons from that city. Following their interrogation, Kanika was arrested from Delhi.

According to Neeraj Thakur, DCP (crime and railways), the gang used to procure airline and railway tickets online using credit card details allegedly obtained by Karampal, a Thai citizen, from her contacts. In Thailand, a "packet'' of 400-500 credit card details can reportedly be obtained for 20,000 Bahts, said the police.

"The gang took cash from customers, promising them cheap tickets. When the concerned airline or the bank tried to realize the money from the credit card owners, the card owner would threaten legal action for being charged for a journey they never undertook,'' said Thakur.

According to crime branch sleuths, credit cards of over 40 Indian and foreign banks were misused by the gang. One American Express premium card had in fact been used to buy 700 tickets over a period of two weeks.

According to Thakur, the affected airlines included Deccan Air (now Kingfisher Red), Kingfisher Airlines, Spicejet, Indigo and Air India. Indian Railways did not escape too.

Among the three arrested from Kolkata is Naeem Ahmed (24). "He is the one of the main brains behind the racket. He bought the tickets and his associates sold them to customers at heavily discounted rates,'' said an officer.

His accomplice Shahid Iqbal (25) runs a travel agency by the name of Chand Travels in Kolkata. He sold the tickets prepared by Naeem to his customers along with Feroz Alam (23) who owns another travel agency by the name of Janta Travels.

By Dwaipayan Ghosh

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