Travel agents use forged letterheads of ministers to confirm rail tickets

NEW DELHI: A group of travel agents have used forged letterheads of Union ministers S Jaipal Reddy, Anand Sharma and KC Venugopal to get wait-listed rail tickets confirmed, police said on Sunday.

A case of cheating and forgery has been registered by Delhi Police on a complaint filed by the vigilance wing of Northern Railways after it got a tip off from its divisional commercial manager in Lucknow.

A senior police official said the Northern Railways brought to their notice seven cases, out of which five were found to be fake.

Of the seven cases, the official said three letters in the names of ministers Reddy, Sharma and Venugopal and two on BSP MP Ambeth Rajan’s name were found forged. The letters of MPs Ramakant Yadav and Jagdanand were found to be original.

An investigation by the railways’ vigilance branch found that Reddy never signs such letters himself and only his private secretary or additional private secretary do so.

“The letterhead on which the requisition has been sent is fake as the address of the minister’s office has been written as Shastri Bhawan whereas his office is in Anusandhan Bhawan,” the official said.

Sharma’s personal staff informed the branch that he does not sign emergency quota letters.

The minister’s assistant told the vigilance branch, “The minister never signs on the right hand side. He always signs on the left hand side.”

Venugopal’s letter was also found to be forged. The official said the tricksters forgot that the Kerala leaders’s portfolio was changed in the previous reshuffle.

“The letterhead was that of minister of state for power, while he is the minister of state for civil aviation now,” the official said.

The fourth request came in the name of MP Rajan. The vigilance branch approached him and found that he had not given the letter.

“The said reservation was confirmed and the train’s quota was released by railways on the advice of vigilance to enable checks. The vigilance team intercepted the passenger at Allahabad railway station.

“The passenger said his ticket was procured through a travel agent in UP’s Jaunpur. He said the agent charged him Rs 900 for the ticket, for which fare was Rs 408,” the official said.

The owner of the travel agency was contacted on phone for booking a ticket, but he refused saying he does not book railway tickets. The vigilance officials then went to the office but found it closed.

The fraudsters also managed to put the fax number of some offices in Parliament Annexe in the fax machine from which it sent fax to Railways for confirmation of tickets, the official said.

“The landline numbers which appeared on the fax were apparently fed manually in the fax machine and were false. The letterheads of MPs and ministers, which have been detected as fake, have the same handwriting and the same pattern of filling up the booking particulars.

“However, the reservations on these requisitions have been made by different agents located at Allahabad, Jaunpur, Varanasi etc,” the official said.