Manipal Group manager siphons off Rs 62 cr, held

Manipal Group manager siphons off Rs 62 cr, held

Sandeep Gururaj and Charusmita P N

A senior manager at the Manipal Group was arrested for siphoning off at least Rs 62 crore from the company accounts.

Sandeep Gururaj, the deputy general manager of finance at the Manipal Education and Medical Group in Bengaluru transferred the funds to his personal account and his wife’s bank account, the police said.

Sandeep also transferred funds to his ex-colleague, Amrita Chengappa as well, whom he was having an affair with. He transferred the money to Amrita, and her pilot brother who is based in Dubai.

As the incident came to light, chairman of the Manipal Group, Ranjan Pai, filed a complaint with the Cubbon Park police. The police then arrested four individuals including three women. Along with Sandeep Gururaj (38) and wife P N Charusmita (30), both residents of Chikkalasandra, Meera Chengappa (59), a resident of Koramangala and her daughter Amrita Chengappa (34), a resident of Juhu Lane, Andheri West, Mumbai were also nabbed in connection with the case.

The mother-daughter duo hail from South Kodagu. The police are yet to arrest Meera Chengappa’s son, the Dubai based Vishal Somanna, a pilot with Qatar Airways. “We have issued a lookout notice for the pilot and he will be arrested soon,” said D Devaraju, DCP (Central).

According to the police, Sandeep, a chartered accountant, has been working with the Manipal Group for the past 15 years. He used to work in the corporate office on the 15th floor of the JW Marriott building on Vittal Mallya Road.

Sandeep had gradually earned the trust of the chairman, Ranjan Pai, and his wife, Shruthi Pai. He was drawing a salary of Rs 48 lakh annually.

The Pais' trust in Sandeep was so firm that he was authorised to carry out online cash transactions of the company. Though, when the transaction was involving a huge sum, then the chairman’s approval over a voice confirmation was mandatory, the police said.

Amrita Chengappa with her mother Meera Chengappa

The Pais learnt about the misappropriation of funds recently, after Rs 3.5 crore was transferred to a Dubai based company from their Manipal International Institution’s account in Mauritius, without Ranjan Pai’s approval over voice confirmation.

They then learnt that Sandeep had mailed the bank stating the chairman was busy with board meetings and the voice approval could be taken later, after the transaction was done. As this raised suspicion among the Pais, they went through the audit reports of the company. They found multiple misappropriations of funds by Sandeep who had forged the signatures of the board members. Shruthi Pai learnt that many transactions, each of Rs 10 lakh, were made on several occasions and the cash was transferred to unknown accounts. The couple then approached the Cubbon Park police and filed a complaint.

Benami companies

Probing the case, the police learnt that Sandeep had been siphoning off the company funds over the past three years. Sandeep floated a fake company named Sanctum under his name and used to transfer cash from Manipal Group’s account to the Sanctum account. He also floated a fake company in his wife Charusmitha’s name called Beehives and transferred Rs 7.65 crore into her account from Manipal Group’s account.

Meanwhile, the police raided Sandeep’s house and seized incriminating documents as evidence. 

Investigation so far has revealed Sandeep had transferred Rs 18.87 crore from the Manipal International Institution’s account in Mauritius to a Dubai based fake company named Vedanta General Trading company - a company registered under the name of Vishal Somanna, the pilot brother of Amrita Chengappa.

“The purpose of the bank transactions was shown as consultancy service charges based on a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the two companies,” DCP Devaraju said.

Later, the police also learnt that Vishal Somanna had transferred Rs 8 crore to his mother Meera Chengappa’s bank account in Koramangala. Vishal had transferred money to his sister Amrita Chengappa’s bank accounts as well.

Amrita was a former colleague of Sandeep at the Manipal Group.

After she married an ex-serviceman, Amrita moved to Mumbai with her husband and worked for Tech Mahindra there.

Sandeep, meanwhile, used to lie to his wife Charusmita, that he had to travel to Mumbai for work, 15 days in a month, but was secretly meeting Amrita.

“Amrita led a lavish life. She shopped from designer outlets in Paris,” a senior police officer said.

According to the police officer, as Sandeep was having an affair with Amrita, he trusted her family members including her mother and pilot brother.

Sandeep’s properties

Sandeep purchased an apartment for Rs 32 lakh in Padmanabhanagar, a 1,200 sq ft house worth Rs 32 lakh at his wife’s native Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, a 1.25 crore apartment in Kanakpura’s Prestige Falcon City and a plot worth Rs. 20.25 lakh in Jigani.

He also purchased an apartment from the Lodha group worth Rs 94.13 lakh in Thane and had also bought expensive luxury cars. Sandeep invested Rs 6.9 crore in FC Prime Market and AV Pvt Ltd companies, and Rs 10.35 crore in the share market with Pinnacle Assets Investment. He invested Rs 10.35 crore in MEMG International DMCC, a Dubai-based investment company.