A bright young student yearning to travel to Australia for higher studies. Or a junior commercial officer of Eastern Railways. These are the masks 22-year-old Arijit Mukherjee put on to cheat the branch managers of nine nationalised banks of Rs 6 lakh within a year. Two of the frauds took place in three days.
Dubbed by the police as “Junior Sobhraj”, after the master conman Charles Sobhraj, the suave imposter, who has studied up to Class XII, would have duped the Burrabazar branch manager of Dena Bank, too, had he not walked into a trap laid by Muchipara police on Tuesday night, according to Niladri Ray, the officer investigating the case.
Arijit, a resident of Balaram Ghosh Street, took loans from United Bank of India, State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank by producing forged documents. But the bank managements did not cross-check his papers. “All the branch managers had the same story to tell: The youth was so smart and impressive they never thought of verifying his papers,” said Ray.
“During interrogation we found that, like Sobhraj, Arijit could win over people with his smooth talk. In fact, we have started calling him Junior Sobhraj,” Ray added.
Timir Bhattacharya, officer-in-charge of Muchipara police station, said the youth, posing as a client looking for a loan, operated on his own.
“All the papers he submitted — right from a certificate from the Australian Embassy to a pay-slip of Eastern Railways — were forged. His ration card, too, was fake. Strangely, the banks did not check a single document before granting him a loan,” Bhattacharya added.
The Dena Bank authorities gave him a loan the day after Arijit applied for it. “This is surprising as it was easy to make out that some of the documents were forged,” added Bhattacharya.
Arijit chose Punjab National Bank’s Shyambazar branch as his first target. “He told the bank manager that he wanted to go to Australia for higher studies for which he needed an education loan. He submitted all forged documents, including a false Australian Embassy certificate. The bank issued a loan of Rs 2.57 lakh,” said Ray.
Arijit then turned Rohitavra Mukherjee, a junior commercial officer of Eastern Railways, and approached the other banks. “Most of his papers were computer print-outs. The documents, like his identity card and pay-slip, were enough to con the bank managers,” said the investigating officer.
His other victims were the managers of four UBI branches (VIP Road, Sealdah, Bagbazar and C.R. Avenue), SBI’s Sovabazar and Chowringhee branches and Dena Bank’s College Street and Dharamtala branches.
“The last crime he committed involved the College Street branch of Dena Bank last December. After sanctioning the loan, the bank management sent a letter to the residential address mentioned in his documents. But the letter returned. The branch manager, realising something was wrong, informed us,” said Ray. Police passed on photographs of Arijit to other banks, which finally led to his arrest.