CUSAT falls prey to online fraud, loses Rs 14 lakh

Online Fraud
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Kalamassery: E-tendering has its advantages but it is not immune to online scams as the authorities of a prominent university based here realised.

Money has been siphoned off by online fraudsters from the account of a division of the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) here. Official laxity has been blamed for the loss to the tune of Rs 14,16,247 as the authorities were taken in by fake email id used by the swindlers.

The loss was reported by the CUSAT's National Centre For Aquatic Animal Health (NCAAH) which was paying online for buying equipment after an e-tendering process that had commenced in 2017.

Allegedly, the money was transferred to the bank account mentioned in the invoice on March 7, 2019. Also, the money was transferred before getting the equipment, violating the norms of the contract. As per the contract, 75 per cent of the amount would be given once the equipment was tested successfully and the rest 25 per cent after two months.

The money lost in the scam was allotted by the central government under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) for the

development of higher education.

How it happened

Four institutions had taken part in the e-tender. The Bengaluru-based Mas-tek Instruments Co was chosen. This firm is the only distributor of the equipment-manufacturing company, Demark-based Labogene Aps, in southern India. The registrar and the area sales manager of the Mas-tek had signed the contract with CUSAT on July 26, 2017.

Rs 15.42 lakh was sanctioned on November 22, 2018 and this was transferred to the NCAAH's account. The purchase order was given to Labogene Aps on December 21 for buying the equipment worth 17,373 Euro (Rs 14,16,247). This information was passed on to the company through the original email id mastekic@gmail.com of Mas-tek. However, the NCAAH received a proforma invoice from a fake email id mastckic@gmail.com.

The university officials came to know of the fraud only when the Mas-tek mailed on April 4, 2019 informing that the money had not received yet. The university officials then filed a complaint to the IG on April 16, 2019.

The outside world came to know of the fraud as the audit report was made public.

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