A day after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested an agency programmer for subverting the railways Tatkal reservation system, the CBI confirmed on Thursday the accused were operating at the pan-India level, and that they received money through Bitcoins and hawala networks. The present government has put a lot of focus on crushing illegal cash flow through hawala networks. The Income Tax Department recently conducted raids at nine Bitcoin exchanges across the country to "gather evidence for establishing the identity of investors and traders, transaction undertaken by them, identity of counterparties, related bank accounts used, among others. The latest incident could give the centre government another reason to put strict measures on the cryptocurrency business in India.
To make the system stronger, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal directed the IRCTC and the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) to strengthen cyber security measures. The CBI on Wednesday arrested its Assistant Programmer Ajay Garg and his partner Anil Gupta for developing illegal software for a price to subvert ticket booking system. "The use of such software is illegal as per rules and regulations of IRCTC and also under the Railways Act," the CBI said in a statement.
Ajay Garg had earlier worked in Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) from 2007 to 2011. He exploited the vulnerabilities to develop the illegal software, which allowed agents to book hundreds of tickets in one go. According to reports, "The vulnerabilities of the IRCTC system still exist."
The CBI probe revealed that accused were allegedly receiving money from the dealers for the use of illegal software through Bitcoins and hawala network. A has been registered against Ajay Garg and others on the allegations of Criminal Conspiracy, Computer related offences for unauthorized access and damage to computer system, unauthorised carrying on of business of procuring & supplying of railway tickets and criminal misconduct. The booking fraud came to light after the agency conducted search operations at 14 places including Delhi, Mumbai and Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh.
The Railway Ministry also issued a press statement on Thursday, saying the railways has an ongoing drive against ticket-less travellers and illegal ticket booking which creates artificial shortages of tickets. "Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal has now further ordered to continue this drive and identify similar cases which are causing inconvenience to genuine passengers," the statement said.
Garg and Gupta, who was arrested from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh by the central agency and brought here on Thursday evening, were questioned till late in the night, the sources said. During the questioning, it emerged that their network was spread across the country, they said. The agency has so far identified 10 travel agents who were part of the network but their questioning is exposing more agents who subscribed to their illegal services, they said. The present version of the software was developed nearly a year back, they said.
With PTI inputs