Thursday, June 20, 2024

Delhi’s hotel scams: Money for nothing, luxury stays for free

When 41-year-old Mohammed Sharif entered the Leela Palace Hotel in Delhis plush Sarojini Nagar, and introduced himself as UAE King Sheikh Falah Bin Zayed Al Nahyans ‘close aide, there was nothing suspicious for the hotel staff as the ‘guest gave them the resident card of the Arab country.

His stay of August 1 last year which started with a grand welcome later turned into a crime in the national capital, indeed not a rare one!

After staying for over 3 months, the ‘important person’ of the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), left the hotel with hotel valuables and submitted a post dated cheque for Rs 20 lakhs. Due to insufficient funds the cheque bounced which clearly signified his malafide intentions and the intent to deceive the hotel authorities.

The Delhi Police registered an FIR on January 13 under sections 419 (punishment for cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating), and 380 (theft in dwelling house, etc.,) of the Indian Penal Code on the basis of the complaint given by the hotel management after Sharif absconded.

According to the FIR accessed by IANS, the man had made a few part settlements in August and September, 2022 of around Rs 11.5 lakh for room charges. The total outstanding still stands at Rs 23,48,413 against which he had issued a post-dated cheque for Rs 20 lakh for November 21, 2022 which was duly submitted to our bank on September 22, 2022, but due to insufficient funds the cheque bounced.

“On November 20, 2022 around 1 p.m., the man fled with hotel valuables and this seems to be completely pre-planned since we were under the impression that by November 22, 2022 the hotel will get the dues cleared through the cheque he had submitted,” read the FIR.

However, Sharif, who was fond of a luxurious lifestyle, was arrested on January 19 from Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka.

On interrogation, Sharif confessed to have checked into the hotel with a fake business card and posed as an important functionary of the United Arab Emirates government.

In February, he was granted bail by a Delhi Court after the judge noted the statement of the hotel’s manager, who stated that the accused has settled all outstanding dues and in view of this payment, the hotel did not have any objection if bail was given to him.

In yet another incident, the Delhi Police in May this year had registered an FIR based on a complaint lodged by the Roseate House, a five-star hotel in Aerocity, that it incurred a loss of over Rs 50 lakhs due to an alleged collusion between a guest and certain staff members, who allowed the person to stay for nearly two years without making any payment.

An officer from the IGI Airport police station said a probe has been launched into the allegation.

“We have collected the documents, which are being verified by the investigating officer,” he added.

However, the accused Ankush Dutta is yet to be arrested.

According to the FIR, Ankush Dutta had checked in on May 30, 2019, and booked a room for a night. However, he kept on extending his stay till January 22, 2021 and did not pay any money.

The FIR says that Prem Prakash, head of the Front Office Department of the hotel, who was authorised to decide on the room rates and had access to the hotel computer system to track the dues of all guests, allowed Dutta to violate the norms.

According to the FIR, it is alleged that Prem Prakash knowingly permitted Dutta’s extended stay, disregarding hotel policies and norms.

The FIR alleged that a criminal conspiracy was orchestrated by Dutta in collusion with certain identified and unidentified hotel staff members, including Prem Prakash.

“The objective of this conspiracy was to wrongfully obtain personal benefits and deprive the hotel of its rightful dues,” it said.

The FIR stated that as part of this scheme, the implicated hotel staff manipulated the account records of Dutta in the hotel’s Opera software system and engaged in activities such as forging, deleting, and adding entries, falsifying a substantial number of records related to his stay.

Additionally, the hotel management discovered that Dutta had issued three separate cheques, amounting to Rs 7 lakhs, Rs 10 lakhs, and Rs 20 lakhs, on different dates as payment.

However, the cheques bounced and the hotel staff, including Prakash, failed to promptly inform the management about this crucial development.

(Shekhar Singh can be reached at shekhar.s@ians.in)

20230624-170008

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