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Cheating case involving retired Bombay HC judge: Rs 15 crore siphoned from victim’s account, says probe

3 arrested accused sent to police custody till Sept 30, fourth accused out on bail

Written by Rohit Alok, Srinath Rao | Mumbai |
September 27, 2016 1:58:43 am

Investigations into a cheating and forgery case allegedly involving a retired Bombay High Court judge revealed that the accused allegedly siphoned Rs 15 crore from the bank account of his deceased brother, police said.

Last week, the police arrested Rathna Lobo and Jagdambaprasad Paswan, both employed as domestic helps with the deceased, and Quraish Morbiwalla, the financial adviser of the deceased, who have allegedly benefited from the fraud.

On Monday, the trio was remanded to police custody until September 30 by the Esplanade Court.

Police said the fraud came to light in April when the National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL) flagged off a “suspicious” transaction and immediately alerted the RBI and HSBC Bank, from where the transfer took place.

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According to senior police officers, account-holder Patrick Saldanha, who was in charge of finance and accounts of a large corporate group, died of a heart attack on February 18 at the age of 81. Soon after his death, the bank has complained, his brothers, Michael and Mark, nominees to his account, falsely represented to the bank that he was alive.

On September 8, a case of cheating, forgery, criminal intimidation using anonymous communication and criminal conspiracy was filed by the HSBC Bank at the Azad Maidan police station against retired Justice Michael Saldanha, who served as a judge at the Bombay High Court between 1990 and 1994, his brother Mark Saldanha, Morbiwalla, Lobo and Paswan.

Soon after the case was registered, the Saldanha brothers were granted anticipatory bail by the Esplanade Court.

“We need to inquire with them regarding the signatures and their alleged roles in being the masterminds. The three arrested accused claim that they were roped in by Michael after Patrick’s death. Rs 8.2 crore has been seized from the accounts of the accused,” said a police officer.

On September 20, the police arrested Morbiwala and Paswan and caught Lobo two days later. The police have claimed that brothers submitted two false notaries to the bank on April 13 and gained access to two of Patrick’s personal lockers, the contents of which investigators claim they are not aware of.

“We know Michael was present in the bank that day, he even submitted a copy of his passport. Morbiwala had accompanied him that day. Following that, an online share trading account at IIFL was opened by the accused naming Patrick as the account holder. In the last two weeks of April, Rs.15 crore worth of stocks were transferred, which raised several flags and caught the attention of the agencies,” said an investigating officer.

Police possess the 34 delivery instruction slips with alleged forged signatures of the deceased that were used to transfer the stocks. As a part of the probe, the police have even collected six specimen signatures of each of the arrested accused to match with who forged which document.

When reached for his comment, Justice Saldanha said, “I am not going to comment because the entire matter was handled by the fellow handling my brother’s affairs. It is absolutely wrong to make any allegations against me.”

On Monday, Morbiwalla’s lawyer told the court he wasn’t involved in the opening of the trading account and had nothing to do with the transactions. Advocate Rajendra Mokashi, who represented Lobo argued that there was no criminality on her part as she had been bequeathed money by Patrick and that there was no “coercion or criminality.”

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