City students almost miss robotics event in Sydney

A Mumbai travel agency duped 10 city-based high school students and their families as the group was to attend an international robotics competition in Sydney, Australia.

The accused charged nearly Rs 17 lakh for ticketing and visas, later providing fake visas and air tickets.

One of the parents checked with the airport and discovered the tickets and visas were indeed fake and alerted others. They filed two separate complaints in Thalaghattapura and Puttenahalli against sales manager Gopinath P J of the Desire Holidays travel agency. 

Advithiya Saxena, a 38-year-old private firm employee, stated in his complaint that his son and three other children were to visit Sydney in Australia for an international robotics competition. They had contacted Desire Holidays sales manager Gopinath and managing director Anitha Pandy to discuss air tickets, visas and hotel bookings.

On April 8, one Subhod Subramani visited Saxena’s house and collected Rs 2.47 lakh. Later, Saxena submitted all the required documents and transferred Rs 6.5 lakh to Gopinath’s personal account. But just a day before the group was to leave for Sydney, Saxena found out the tickets and visas were fake.

Similarly, Rajini M S living in Shobha Hill View told the police that her daughter and three classmates aged 11-13 years were selected to attend the international event in Sydney from July 4-7.

Rajini and other parents transferred Rs 7.97 lakh to Gopinath’s personal account towards travel charges on March 1. Gopinath sent all the travel documents.

While making preparations, when Rajini crosschecked with the airport, she discovered that all the travel documents were forged. Gopinath was out of reach. She then approached the police.

When DH contacted Desire Holidays managing director Anitha Pandy, also an accused, she said sales manager Gopinath was removed from the job on June 1 after learning about the fraud. “We learnt he had cheated many clients with fake travel documents. Company has filed a complaint against him in Andheri East police station,” she said.

“Gopinath used to call clients from his personal phone number and e-mail, telling them if they paid money to the company’s account they would pay 28% GST and if they sent money to his personal account the entire GST would be waived. So most of the clients sent their money or gave the amount in cash to save money, but lost it completely,” Anitha said.

“Clients should have verified with the company before sending such huge amount to anybody’s savings accounts,” Anitha added.

However, none of the students missed the competition in Sydney. The parents managed to get visas and tickets at the eleventh hour.

Efforts are on to nab the accused.

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