Fraudsters used cloned cheques to withdraw nearly Rs 6 lakh from the accounts of the trust formed to construct the Ram temple in Ayodhya, The Hindu reported on Thursday. The money was allegedly transferred to an account in Punjab National Bank.

Ayodhya Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajesh Kumar said Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust General Secretary Champat Rai submitted an application to the police alleging that around Rs 6 lakh had been withdrawn from the trust’s account fraudulently. A first information report has been filed in Ayodhya under Sections 471, 468, 467, 420 and 419 of the Indian Penal Code.

The amount was withdrawn from the State Bank of India branch in Nayaghat in Ayodhya. The cheques bear the signatures of Rai and another trust member, Anil Mishra. On September 1, Rs 2.25 lakh was withdrawn from the account and the money transferred to the Punjab National Bank account. A similar transaction of Rs 3.50 lakh was carried out on September 8, Rai alleged.

Kumar said the fraud was discovered when Rai got a verification call from Punjab National Bank on Wednesday afternoon, when the third cloned cheque of Rs 9.86 lakh was brought up for clearance, Hindustan Times reported. The police officer said the initial investigation suggested negligence of bank authorities, as well as the involvement of bank employees, as serial numbers of the original cheques had been compromised. “A police team is probing the money trail to trace the fraudsters and people involved in compromising the trust bank account details to unearth the racket involved the crime,” Kumar said.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad spokesperson Sharad Sharma called the forgery a serious matter and demanded strong action against the culprits.

Punjab National Bank has been in the news since fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi was accused in February 2018 of defrauding the bank of more than Rs 13,000 crore. His uncle Mehul Choksi is also a prime accused in the case.

The Ram temple trust was set up based on a Supreme Court judgement on November 9 last year. The court also offered the Muslim parties land at another place to rebuild the Babri Masjid, which was demolished at the Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.