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VVS falls victim to bank fraud in city

A man from Malda was detained in Salt Lake on Friday afternoon after he allegedly siphoned off Rs 10 lakh from former Indian cricketer V.V.S. Laxman’s bank account in Hyderabad using netbanking.

The cricketer-turned-commentator had lodged a complaint with Cyberabad police in his hometown around 3pm. A couple of hours later, Izazul Sheikh, 28, was detained at a Bank of India branch near the Kwality crossing in Salt Lake, where the money had been transferred.

Sheikh, who is from Kaliachowk in Malda, often visits the city and stays in hotels, police said.

Investigators could not explain how he gained access to Laxman’s account. A police team from Hyderabad is likely to take the suspect into custody on Saturday.

“Sheikh couldn’t explain how the money from Laxman’s account was credited to his account through netbanking,” said Arnab Ghosh, deputy commissioner at the Bidhannagar police commissionerate.

Funds can be transferred between accounts, even if they are of different banks, using netbanking. All netbanking accounts are password-protected and many have a second layer of security in the form of a randomly generated code that is texted to the account holder every time he or she tries to access the account.

According to the police, the manager of the Bank of India branch called up the officer-in-charge of Bidhannagar North police station, Shantanu Kowar, on Friday to report a suspicious transaction.

“We regularly hold meetings with bank officials in Salt Lake and ask them to alert us if they notice any suspicious transaction. The money was deposited in an account opened by Sheikh in the name of a company that does not exist. The transaction attracted attention because such a large sum had not been deposited in the account before. The bank did not know that the money had come from Laxman’s account,” deputy commissioner Ghosh said.

Officer-in-charge Kowar requested the bank officials to call Sheikh to the branch and make him wait there.

The bank authorities contacted Sheikh to ask whether he wanted to withdraw the money.

“He replied that he wanted to withdraw the money today, so the bank authorities did something smart. They asked him to come to the bank as soon as possible. When the suspect turned up, they asked him to wait, saying the currency notes were being counted,” a police officer said.

The suspect was seated in the manager’s room when a police team reached the bank. “While questioning Sheikh at the bank, we received an instruction from Rajeev Kumar (commissioner of Bidhannagar police) to bring the suspect to the police station immediately,” the officer said.

Kumar had received a fax from C.V. Anand, commissioner of police, Cyberabad police, stating that Laxman’s netbanking account had been hacked and Rs 10 lakh transferred to an account with a Salt Lake bank.

The Laxman money trail to Calcutta is ironical given his very, very special bond with the city. The batsman, known for his immaculate cover drives and wristy flicks, has scored more Test runs at the Eden Gardens than anyone else. He ended his career with five centuries at Eden, including the epic 281 in the second inning of the 2001 Test versus Australia with India following on.