Caller posing as central government secretary seeks Metro contracts info, Pune police suspect extortion bid

The caller identified himself by name as the 'Secretary of the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry' with the central government.

The Pune City Police is probing two separate cases in which government officials in the city received calls from a man posing as a top central government secretary in which inquiries were made about contracts granted in the ongoing Metro rail project. Police are probing if these calls could have been attempts to extort money from Metro rail contractors.

In the first case, an Executive Director with Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation received several calls on December 26 seeking information and contact details of a contractor who has been doing work on a specific part of the Metro Rail project in the city.

The caller identified himself by name as the ‘Secretary of the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry’ with the central government.

The Metro official, who lodged the complainant in this case, was suspicious because it was unusual for a central government official to directly contact him. While the complainant asked the caller to wait, he checked with senior officials and learned that the caller was fraudulently posing as a government official. The caller even made follow-up calls asking the complainant why there had been a delay in giving him information.

Senior Inspector Dilip Shinde of Koregaon Park police station said, “To impersonate the Union government secretary, the caller was using the photo of the IAS officer currently holding the position as his display picture…Not just that, he had put his name as that of the IAS officer on the Truecaller app. We have now launched a probe and are investigating the phone number. Prima facie, we have reasons to believe that this could have been part of a bid to extort money from contractors.”

The FIR in this case was registered Monday under Indian Penal Code sections pertaining to impersonation, impersonation as a government official and relevant sections of the Information Technology Act.

In the second case, which was registered at Chatushrungi police station, an official from the Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (PMRDA) received a call on January 17 from a man who identified himself as ‘Secretary, Urban Development with Government of India’. In this case, too, the caller sought information about contracts having been granted in the Metro Rail project. While this call was received from a different number, the caller identified himself with the name of the IAS officer currently holding the post and sought similar information as in the first case.

Senior Inspector Anil Shewale of Chatushrungi police station said, “The case registered at Koregaon Park police station and the one registered with us have striking similarities. The name used by the caller and the information sought is same. We are probing if this was an attempt to contact the contractors for extortion. We will coordinate our probes in these cases and try to find out if there have been more instances like this in the recent past.”

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