A SERIAL conman who allegedly duped two branches of Bank of India (BOI) in Navi Mumbai was caught while trying to similarly cheat another branch of the bank Monday. The conman was recognised and chased by the branch manager and bank authorities later handed him over to police. However, although the accused was caught early in the afternoon, police tried to avoid taking a complaint citing jurisdictional issues and only registered a complaint late on Monday evening after the bank approached Navi Mumbai police commissioner A K Sharma.
Bank officials said the accused, identified as Prem Prajapati alias Prem Mhatre alias Prem Shakeel, has been on the bank's radar since he duped its Seawoods branch of over Rs 10 lakh. "Prem had taken a vehicle loan, which we later learned was obtained using forged documents. He would avoid paying the EMIs till we pressurised him and would then pay Rs 10,000-Rs 15,000 just to avoid action by the bank. He had done this at our Seawoods branch as well as our Khandeshwar Colony branch," said Captain S C Singh, chief security officer, BOI.
As there had technically been no defaulting of the loan — an aspect that Prem is believed to have capitalised on — the bank had not filed a complaint. However, it had issued an internal circular, with his photograph, cautioning all branches against him.
On Friday last week, Prem turned up at the Airoli branch and met the manager, Pushpa Subramaniam (50). "Prem applied for a loan of Rs 11.5 lakh and claimed to have all the documents. I told him that I would have to contact his bank and get a certificate, to which he replied that he could get that within five minutes. This made me suspicious and I asked him to return this week. In the meantime, I had an occasion to visit our head office, where I saw the circular with his photograph," said Subramaniam.
On Monday, when Prem returned, Subramaniam had left instructions that he should be told to meet her. When he entered her cabin, she asked him to wait and stepped out, after which she called Captain Singh. In the meantime, Prem grew suspicious and started running. Subramaniam gave chase. Prem managed to leave the bank premises and covered quite some distance before he was caught by Subramaniam and passersby. He was brought back to the bank and the Seawoods branch was informed, who, in turn, informed the NRI Seawoods police station, adds Subramaniam.
"The Seawoods police kept saying that no offence had occurred in their jurisdiction, although we were ready to give a complaint. We had to approach the police commissioner," said a bank official.
Sharma said, "There was an issue and the bank officials had come to me, but I have spoken to officers at NRI police station. They have registered a complaint."
Senior inspector Suresh Vedak, NRI police station, confirmed that an FIR had been registered under IPC section 420 (cheating) and said Prem would be arrested as soon as the initial investigations were completed.
Subramaniam, who has been with BOI for 25 years, stays with her son in Vidyavihar. In 2007, when she was with the Ghatkopar branch of the bank, a bag belonging to an employee had been stolen and she had played an active role in helping police nab the accused, who was eventually arrested the same day. "I felt no fear while chasing Prem. My son later scolded me for taking the risk but I could not just let the man escape," she said.