Andhra Bank has returned Rs 51 lakh to the Patna district administration after it made payments on the basis of forged cheques last year.
The state government had written letters to all banks to return the money at the earliest. Other banks concerned, too, have promised to return the money by the end of this month. In November 2013, around Rs 4.42 crore was siphoned off the district administration using forged cheques.
“Recently, Andhra Bank has returned Rs 51 lakh to the Patna district administration. I had written letters to Andhra Bank and Bank of Baroda demanding return of the money released even though cheques produced had my forged signature. It was the responsibility of the banks to verify the signatures properly,” said Patna district magistrate (DM) N. Saravana Kumar on Thursday.
Of the total money siphoned off, Rs 1.51 crore had been swindled from Andhra Bank and transferred to a Chennai-based company. Three persons were arrested on November 21, 2013, for swindling money after forging signatures of the DM and another senior official. All the three worked at the district planning office, which handles development funds. Bank of Baroda is yet to return Rs 2.5 crore, while Rs 86.65 lakh was withdrawn from Bank of India.
On demanding the remaining amount, Saravana said: “I had written letters to Andhra bank and the Bank of Baroda. They have promised to refund the money to the district administration by the end of this month. We have also sent a reminder in this matter. As the money was fraudulently withdrawn from these three banks, the district administration has closed all its accounts in these banks.” He added: “We have withdrawn money from these banks and have directed the officials concerned not to use the services of these three banks. New accounts have been opened in other banks for official work. We are taking steps to prevent a repetition of the crime. We have decided to reduce the use of cheques and encourage Net banking.”
The district administration had also sent special teams to Chennai, Ranchi and Dhanbad from where the money was withdrawn. When The Telegraph asked the DM about any action taken against bank employees, he said: “It is not up to the district administration to take action against the bank employees. However, police are investigating the case and very soon they will come out with the results. The cops are also probing the involvement of other officials in the collectorate apart from the nazir (custodian of the chequebooks) and a clerk.”
However, bank officials are not happy with the Patna district administration. “We paid the huge amount to the district administration unnecessarily. Someone had fraudulently withdrawn the money and we have to face the loss,” said a senior official of Andhra Bank.
In November 2013, over Rs 3.56 crore was swindled from the Patna Collectorate. A few days later, another incident of cheque forgery came to light in the district welfare office — for a sum of Rs 86.65 lakh.