Postmaster siphons off Rs 2.09 crore, buys property during COVID-19 pandemic in Odisha

Biswanath Podiami made fake deposits against some of the depositors and then withdrew money in their favour without their knowledge..
For representational purpose. (Photo | PTI)
For representational purpose. (Photo | PTI)

BHUBANESWAR: In a novel way of defrauding, a postmaster in the tribal hinterland of Malkangiri
district allegedly siphoned off Rs 2.09 crore of depositors' money through fake deposits and withdrawals taking the advantage of Covid-19 pandemic.

As internal investigation revealed, branch postmaster for Lachipeta and Malkangiri Colony post offices Biswanath Podiami made fake deposits against some of the depositors and then withdrew money in their favour without their knowledge.

Officials said, the accused allegedly used the money to amass property and built a house worth around Rs 1 crore. Two others have also been booked for helping Podiami in the fraud.

During his recent visit to the State, Union Minister for Communications, IT, and Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw had directed a speedy enquiry and appropriate action against those involved following complaints of fraud.

"The fraud has been reported during the pandemic last year when monitoring of deposits was affected due to poor internet connectivity in the Malkangiri and Koraput belt. This could be the first of its kind fraud in the postal department," said an official.

The Department of Posts (DoP) has detected misappropriation of Rs 2.44 crore of depositors' money in three branch post offices in Odisha. This includes Rs 1.16 crore at Malkangiri colony and Rs 93.5 lakh at Lachipeta branch post offices besides, Rs 35 lakh at Bhejangiwada post office, all under the Koraput

Secretary of DoP Vineet Pandey said the investigation into the fraud at Lachipeta and Malkangiri colony post offices has been handed over to CBI, which has registered a case against postmaster Podiami and two others.

Branch postmaster of Bhejangiwada post office Mana Pujari, who misappropriated Rs 35 lakh instead of depositing the amount in the accounts of depositors, was booked under various sections of IPC and arrested.

"The departmental investigation has already been completed in Lachipeta post office case and ongoing in the other two cases. The CBI and police have been urged to complete the investigation soon. Directions have been issued for attachment of properties of the main accused and their family members," Pandey said
and informed that the monitoring through robust IT network has been strengthened after the fraud.

The DoP swung into action after Vaishnaw ordered to complete the probe within a month and warned stern action against the guilty. The Minister had sought the report from the postal department after a group of depositors whose money was misappropriated made a representation to him on August 21 during his visit to Koraput as part of four-day Jan Ashirwad Yatra.

Chief Postmaster General of Odisha Suvendu Swain said all genuine claims will be settled within 30 days in accordance with the SOP issued by the department. The depositors of the three branch offices have been appealed to come forward and lodge complaints as only five claims have been received so far.

"In last two years, 17 frauds of Rs 7.9 crore have been detected in the State and staff involved in 12 cases dismissed. Around Rs 6.4 crore has been recovered from them and provided to depositors," he added.

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