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November 30, 1999
A website, a gambler and his Rs 840 million fraud
Shireen in Hyderabad
"It is a classic case of cyber crime, the first of its kind in Andhra Pradesh," was how Vijayawada Police Commissioner Sudeep Lakhtakia summed up the case of cheating and fraud registered against Kola Venkata Krishna Mohan, the self-styled winner of the multi-million dollar Euro lottery. Mohan admitted that he did not win the 12.5 million pound Euro lottery in November 1998, as he had claimed, but merely played fraud to make good his losses in gambling.
"With the help of computers, the accused took the people for a ride," the Vijayawada police commissioner pointed out. Mohan, using the Internet and forged documents, allegedly cheated banks and several persons to the tune of 60 million rupees.
Kola Mohan was arrested by the Vijayawada city police on Monday in connection with cases of fraud and forgery registered against him. He was remanded to judicial custody till December 13 by Fifth Metropolitan Magistrate K B Narsimhulu. He was shifted to the district jail at Gandhinagar in Vijayawada. Mohan was accused of cheating the Andhra Bank to the tune of Rs 1.73 million.
By perpetrating the multi-million rupee fraud, Mohan has achieved the dubious distinction of allegedly committing the first and biggest cyber crime in Andhra. The state, incidentally is making rapid strides in information technology, thanks to the initiative of cyber-savvy Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
A compulsive gambler who played cards regularly at high stakes in various clubs in the coastal city, Mohan told newsmen at the police commissioner's office at Vijayawada on Monday that he had lost as much as Rs 30 million in 1998 when a gambling syndicate led by a real estate dealer and a restaurant-owner cheated him.
"I was on the look-out to make good the losses by hook or crook. During a visit to London, I learnt about the Euro lottery. I staked some money on it in vain. Then, I invented the story that I won the lottery. I created a website and an email address on the Internet with the address 'firstname.lastname@example.org.' Whenever accessed, the site would name me as the beneficiary of the 12.5 million pound (that is, $ 19.8 million or Rs 840 million) Euro-lottery," Kola Mohan recalled.
A Telugu newspaper in Hyderabad received an email that a Telugu had won the Euro lottery. The website address was given for verification. The newspaper sent the query and got the "confirmation" since Kola Mohan had himself created and manipulated the website.
The Telugu daily published the story and other newspapers and the media in general followed suit. Nobody tried to verify the claim at the genuine address of Euro-lottery. "It was surprising that no newsman asked me either for any proof," Mohan quipped.
Taken for a ride by his claim, people made a beeline to Krishna Mohan for deposits, partnerships, donations etc. He became a celebrity overnight and began leading a luxurious life. He purchased a posh house and cars. He was provided gunmen by the police for his security.
Mohan collected millions of rupees from several individuals and financiers at four to nine per cent interest per month. Some nationalised banks also lent him money in a bid to attract the Euro deposit. He used this money to pay interest to some creditors to retain their confidence. To repay one loan, he took another.
However, the fraud came to light when a cheque discounted by him with the Andhra Bank for Rs 1.73 million bounced. Mohan had pledged with Andhra Bank the copy of a bond certificate purportedly issued by Midland Bank, Sheffields, London stating that a term deposit of 12.5 million was held in his name.
After the cheque bounced, Andhra Bank authorities verified the authenticity of the bond certificate with the Midland Bank. They were shocked to learn that the bond certificate was fake. Thereupon, on November 25, the Andhra Bank Eluru Road branch officials lodged a complaint with Governorpet police station against Mohan for "cheating and forgery." The police registered a case against him under sections 420, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code.
In the meantime, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu also ordered the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department of the state police to probe into the antecedents of Mohan who had joined the Telugu Desam Party in May this year and even donated one million rupees to the NTR Memorial Trust set up by the TDP.
Mohan claimed that the manager of a London-based company had collaborated with him in realising his plans to defraud people. The police confiscated a laptop, worth Rs 1,40,000, from his possession and also seized some incriminating documents.
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