Acting on a complaint from digital wallet company Paytm, the Central Bureau of Investigation has registered a case against 15 customers of the company over allegations of cheating it to the tune of Rs 6.15 lakh.
It is rare for the CBI to take up such cases unless they have been referred by the central government or there are directions by the Supreme Court or a high court.
Responding to media queries seeking to know why the agency which is facing a staff crunch decided to take up the case, a CBI spokesperson on Friday said 'it can register cases under Information Technology Act in the territory of Delhi even against private individuals'.
The CBI has mentioned 15 customers of the $5-billion (Rs 34,000-crore) digital wallet company and unknown officials of Paytm as suspects in the FIR registered on Thursday.
Calls made to most of the customers, seeking their reaction, were disconnected after hearing that they have been named in the CBI FIR. Some numbers remained unanswered or out of network.
The agency registered FIR against 15 customers who are residents of Kalkaji, Govindpuri and Saket besides unknown officials of One97 Communications -- parent company of Paytm.
The complaint from the Manager Legal M Sivakumar claimed that the company makes payment for defective products received by a customer and also arranges a reverse pickup of the damaged product which is sent to the merchant.
The process is done by a team of customer-care executives who have been assigned specific IDs and passwords to handle such complaints from the customers and arrange refund and pickup.
It is alleged that the company found that between 2014-16, in 48 cases, the customers had received refunds even though the delivery of orders was made successfully to them.
'As a matter of fact wherein delivery of orders was successful and satisfactory to the customer, refund should not happen. However, in all these 48 cases refund of order amount happened to the respective customers to the tune of Rs 6.15 lakh,' the complaint, which is now part of the FIR, alleged.
It alleged that customers 'illegally' appropriated money refunded in their bank accounts and wallets.
It claimed the act (of officials) reflects 'serious' fraudulent practice and foul play with common intention to wrongfully gain along with such customers.
The digital wallet company, which got a big boost in transactions after demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, claimed that the accused first got details of internal working of the company and then executed their plans.
'Accused persons first acquired knowledge as to how the system of complainants works and conspired to book orders, take deliveries of products at common addresses known and or belonging to them and their accomplices and then made or managed false and fabricated entries in computer system of complainant company and approved/made fraudulent refunds against the same orders, delivery of which were taken by their accomplices,' the company alleged.
The company alleged that most of these customers had taken deliveries of products at common or similar addresses.
Naming the customers in the FIR, the company claimed that they may be instrumental in said fraudulent acts and could be known to each other forming bigger part of the larger conspiracy.
The company has information that in those cases where refunds were made, money was further transferred from wallet to bank accounts of either accused persons or people known to each other, it alleged.
The company claimed that the refunds were made within five to six minutes of disputes being raised by the customer.
Photograph: Shailesh Andrade/Reuters