Purulia, May 24: A Rs 70 lakh scam involving deposits at the Purulia head post office has come to light recently. An agent of the standardised agency system (SAS) of the small savings department is alleged to have duped many people of their savings by making them believe they were depositing their money in postal schemes.
The scam comes close on the heels of a fraud at a unit of the Purulia Central Co-operative Bank which made its manager, Mohanlal Sen, allegedly commit suicide.
The alleged cheat, Amal Chatterjee, was licensed as a SAS agent in 1994. He had become the topmost small savings deposit collector in the district, owing his rise partly to his elder brother being postmaster at the Anara sub-post office. But more important, Chatterjee rose to prominence because he offered a big part of his commission to his clients, unlike other agents. Over the last nine years he had built a reputation for himself, thanks to timely repayments to clients and good service.
It is thought that Chatterjee could have cheated nearly 50 depositors. The scam figure of Rs 70 lakh could yet rise if more depositors admit to being duped.
Anadi Dutta of Nadiha in Purulia town was perhaps Chatterjee’s first known victim. He took about Rs 2 lakh in cash from Dutta for two term deposits at the head post office. This is illegal since such large payments can only be made by cheque. Although the money was never deposited, Chatterjee gave Dutta a stamped passbook recording his payment.
“This suggests collusion with post office staff. How else could he get a passbook, that too with the official post office stamp,” an agent asked. Chatterjee would even forge the assistant postmaster’s signature in his clients’ passbooks, leaving no room for any doubt among his customers.
“He (Chatterjee) has also duplicated my signature and made premature withdrawals on my monthly income scheme deposits,” says Yogeshwar Mahato, a retired professor of J.K. College here. The professor has no idea where the Rs 7 lakh he deposited through Chatterjee has gone. “When I tried to lodge a complaint the post office staff dissuaded me, saying it would delay my getting back the money,” Mahato adds.
Nevertheless, Krishna Duari, an assistant teacher at Arjunjora High School near Hutmura, has complained to the assistant director of the small savings department. Duari has lost about Rs 60,000 thanks to Chatterjee.
The agent also duped an eminent doctor, who “deposited” Rs 8 lakh under the post-office’s monthly income scheme.
Superintendent of posts, Purulia division, Nemai Chatterjee, and head post master Sikandar Ali Ansari are aware of the scam.
Ansari says: “We have initiated a departmental inquiry and recommended that Chatterjee’s licence be cancelled. The scam reflects badly on the department and will deter people from making deposits.” He could not say if the victims would get back their money.
District magistrate D.P. Jana has promised immediate action if anyone complains to him. “Those affected can collectively or individually lodge their complaints. These will be looked into at once. This is a serious matter since it is the public’s hard-earned life savings that are involved,” he added.