Say they have been duped of sums from Rs.2 lakh to Rs.8 lakh
Firm has no landline number, Web address
Contacts were through e-mail, cellphone
KOCHI: In what is said to be an Internet-based fraud, several veterinary doctors and assistants, homeopaths and an engineer, and possibly those from other professions, in Kerala have been allegedly duped of millions of rupees by a firm offering lucrative jobs in Spain.
Nine veterinary professionals, an unconfirmed number of homoeopaths and the engineer are said to have paid sums ranging from Rs.2 lakh to Rs.8 lakh to Sajeev Associates, represented in e-mail by one Sajeevan. The firm, with postal address in Kolkata, has no landline number or Web address. Sajeevan, a Malayali, had contacted the victims through the mobile phone or e-mail.
None of those who have transferred lakhs of rupees to Sajeevan’s bank accounts has met him or seen his photographs or know his whereabouts.
Though the firm has given a Kolkata address for couriering copies of certificates, the money had to be paid to Sajeevan’s accounts in Chennai branches of the State Bank of India and the HDFC and Axis banks.
The veterinary doctors and assistants told The Hindu that Sajeevan, in fact, ran his operations based in Chennai, and not in Kolkata. Discrete enquiries by the vets showed that the residential address provided at each of these banks varied and that he had pulled out money from the accounts using ATM cards, always leaving only the minimum balance in the accounts. Even the broadband Internet connection to the computer from which he sent e-mails from Chennai was in another person’s name.
The messages to the veterinarians came from two email IDs: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The latter was supposed to be from the Spanish company Vetarchmb-Spain. A causal check on the internet will show that it is created at mail.com, which specialises in personalised or occupation-based or country-wise email IDs. The messages sent from the two IDs have the same writing style and the same faulty English. A check on fraudwatchers.org, which “provides support, guidance and assistance to victims of (Internet) fraud” about the Vetarchmb job offer, had originated this answer: “Any offer of employment that is accompanied by a request for payment is 100% fraudulent. Nobody is going to offer a lucrative job via an unsolicited email. It is a scam.” An e-mail query with the Spanish embassy in Delhi said the recruitment was fraudulent.
The veterinarians told The Hindu that they had each paid between Rs.5 lakh and Rs.8 lakh in instalments over a period of eight months. They had been offered jobs with the ‘Spanish’ veterinary company called ‘Vetarchmb’ supposed to have been based at Balmes in Barcelona, Spain. S.G. Biju, trust chairman of the Institution of Homeopaths, Kerala, said his guess estimate was that roughly 100 homeopaths had been duped, though most of them preferred to keep it secret. One homeopath admitted that he had paid Rs.2.5 lakh to Sajeevan through bank transfer, Dr. Biju said. He said the Institution of Homeopath’s journal had recently carried a warning about the offer.
The vets said they had all received fliers offering jobs in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain. However, the offer was later narrowed down to Spain. The flier specifically said: “We are not collecting any service charges from your (candidate) side. Our service charges are paying (sic) by M/s Vetarchmb Group.Europe.”
However, after the veterinarians accepted the offers, Sajeev Associates kept on asking for money on one pretext or the other. For instance, one had to pay Rs.1.5 lakh towards ‘translation’ of all the pages of all his certificates into Spanish at the rate of Rs.1,500 a page. Then, there was a payment of Rs.2.5 lakh towards medical check-up, insurance, visa stamping and flight ticket to Delhi (though the trip was put off). Again, there was a payment of Rs.1.75 lakh for bank guarantee and 2,000 euros for passport endorsement and for medical report revalidation. A special agreement fee of Rs.50,000 was the latest demand.
They were told that all the expenses would be reimbursed by the employer within 40 days of reporting for work.
By K.P.M. Basheeer