Saturday, August 20, 2022

Multi-crore PF scam hits Jet Airways

Mumbai: The Kandivli Provident Fund (PF) office is under the cloud of a multi-crore scam involving the PF settlement of several Jet Airways employees, mostly pilots. Sources have told mid-day that PF officials connived with the airline staff to siphon money off the accounts of foreign workers and destroyed vital documents. Amid demands for a CBI probe and with the EPFO sending a senior vigilance officer to Mumbai to investigate the scam, desperate efforts are being made to retrieve copies of the documents. 

As pressure mounts for a forensic audit into the PF accounts of expatriate and domestic workers of Jet Airways, the Kandivli PF office suspended a senior official—Social Security Assistant Machindra Bamne—on August 18 for allegedly receiving kickbacks. 

Sources told mid-day that Bamne violated PF rules for international workers in connivance with his senior colleagues at the Kandivli regional office and insiders at Jet. After siphoning crores through bogus claims, those involved in the scam destroyed several documents. “Now, Jet Airways is contacting the pilots to send copies of Indian PAN cards and Indian bank cheques for PF recipt of money. The foreign pilots have been asked to send their vital documents to,” said a source.

“The multi-crore loot started in 2019 but it gained momentum during lockdown period,” said another source at EPFO.  

mid-day has WhatsApp chat details between a former Jet employee and a pilot, who was asked to send the documents that are missing at the PF office.

A WhatsApp chat between a former Jet employee and a pilot reads, “Hi Capt…request you to forward your indian pan card copy and indian bank cheque copy used for provident fund receipt of money to Mr Suchit on as same is required by provident fund office urgently’.

When the pilot asked, “what happened, will they pay money?,” the former employee replied: ‘no idea… he just called me today and enquired about this for few pilots.” 

‘He (Bhagwat) said these pilots have already withdrawn money but these documents are missing from their set in provident fund office. So that office (EPFO) is asking to submit same (sic),’ reads the chat.

The pilot replied: ‘In 2019, I got some per cent. Not the total amount. 2021 I was requesting to get the pending balance, but was not possible’. 

Trustee member Sukumar Damle said, “The issue of Jet Airways was raised in the meeting and people talked about the underarm dealings. It’s a matter related to the Kandivli branch. I have heard that such a thing has happened and people who are foreign employees, their PF amounts are siphoned off by the scamsters.”

Another member, Prabhakar Banasure, said, “I was present in the meeting. I have demanded for the forensic audit of PF accounts of Jet Airways.”

Though chief vigilance officer (CVO) Jeetendra Khare will investigate the case, officials at the Kandivli PF office and a few trustee members cast doubts on the outcome. 

20/08/22 Diwakar Sharma/Mid Day

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