Thursday, March 4, 2010
FOREIGN OFFICE DUPED?
investigative news break story
HOW FOREIGN OFFICE
AND HOME MINISTRY APPROVED THE
OF FOREIGN INVITE
Culpable for a fraud, more how did the Foreign Office
and home ministry were duped?
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has
pushed under carpet a cyber fraud, at least until its chairperson and
members retire in a month, to save them from accountability and
It made an upfront payment for hotel and its member travelled to London
for a so-called UN-sponsored conference only to find there was no
conference and nobody booked her hotel accommodation. The invite had
come through Internet email in April last year and all follow-up
communication was also through emails.
Interestingly, the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare gave the
administrative clearance and the External Affairs Ministry accorded the
political clearance for the commission member Sandhya Bajaj to attend
the conference, without suspecting any foul play.
Since the Indian High Commission was neither asked to verify bonafides
of organisers and details of the conference nor was it communicated
arrival of the commission member for protocol facilities like receiving
her at the airport and lodging her in the hotel, the lady found herself
Nobody even bothered to check with any UN office about the so called
"10th MDGs International Conference" the world body was organising from
May 26 to 29 after the fraudulent email landed on the desk of the
The truth came to light only on May 26 last year when the member rang
up the chairperson to inform her that she has become victim of a fraud
as nobody received her or contacted her on arrival and when she checked
from the Hotel Hyde Park where her room had been booked and where the
conference was to be held, she was told no such conference is taking
place there and no room was booked in her name. She returned on May 28,
a day before the conference was to conclude.
The exchequer lost a little less than Rs 1 lakh. The commission
promptly ordered a preliminary inquiry by one A K Malhotra, a retired
PSU officer providing human resource and legal consultancy. He was
asked to give report within two weeks, but nothing became of the
exhaustive 52-page report he filed, pointing out a score of
irregularities. A case was also filed with the cyber cell of Delhi
Police but no progress as the commission showed no interest.
The chairman and members of the commission are completing their term on
April 4 and nobody wants the incident probed as it may bring out other
scandals in the commission's cupboards and put them in the box much
after they are retired and gone. It was this fear that prompted them
not to report the incident to the Central Vigilance Commission or the
Central Bureau of Investigation.
Some Indian appears to be involved in the cyber fraud as the commission
was told through an email that the organisers will arrange the flight
tickets for the delegate after the hotel booking is done by him or her
and gave an ICICI Bank account to deposit the money for the hotel
booking, claiming it was the account of the hotel's reservation officer
Ansari Abdulla. A cash amount of Rs 36,400 was deposited in the ICICI
Bank's New Delhi branch on May 22.
Nobody felt even slightly suspicious despite the fact that the hotels
never ask for advance money while booking rooms, particularly when the
request comes from a government organisation. Moreover, at the most the
hotel will ask for the first day's deposit.
Nor did the commission approach the ICICI Bank immediately to know
about Ansari and request for details of his accounts and whether he had
transferred the money received in his account to anybody else. Even
immediate police complaint was not preferred as the commission wanted
first to go through preliminary inquiry on its own.
No explanation is also given as to what prompted the commission to buy
the air tickets when the organisers had promised to provide them.
During the inquiry, the staff said the member, Sandhya Bajaj, had
ordered purchase of the tickets after money was released to her through
The inquiry also revealed that the staff showed to Sandhya Bajaj an
email sent by one Dr Suresh Kumar to her on May 11, a fortnight before
her travel, that "this UN conference is fraud," but she ordered to
ignore it and go ahead with programme. When confronted, she denied any
such email and said Dr Suresh Kumar had a telephonic conversation only
to request her for arranging his hotel accommodation for the conference
he was also attending.
Sandhya Bajaj and the staff were engaged in running battle in a bid to
put blame on each other for every irregularity. She accused the staff
of not showing her all emails while the staff showed files to claim she
returns papers without signing and so they cannot prove her consent on
every step they took under her orders.
Had the commission asked the sender of the email to send a formal
invitation through post with details loke brochure on the conference,
details of the participants, the delegate fee, etc., the fraud would
have been nipped in the bud. Nor did anybody think it fit to intimate
the Indian High Commission about the event in which the commission is