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BSF files complaint against global travel firm for selling VIP passes of Attari retreat

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: September 22, 2019  | 14:01 IST

By Neelabh Srivastava New Delhi, Sep 22 (PTI) An FIR has been lodged against a global online travel firm on a complaint by the BSF that alleged it was cheating visitors by selling them 'VIP passes' for the popular retreat ceremony at Punjab's border front of Attari-Wagah, officials said on Sunday. The border force, in its criminal complaint filed early this month with the Punjab Police, said that the "multinational scam"-like act has "tarnished" its image as the daily flag-lowering martial ceremony can be witnessed for free and BSF personnel go the extra mile to ensure that people enjoy all aspects of it without shelling out a penny.  The complaint, that has been converted into an FIR by the police, names the Expedia group, a global online travel agency, its sister concerns and others of perpetrating the alleged con that was first detected on August 31 at Attari in Punjab's border district of Amritsar. Expedia.com did not respond to PTI's email queries on the subject.  Official sources told the news agency that the incident came to light when a woman from Delhi and three others approached a Border Security Force (BSF) jawan on August 31 stating she has four VIP passes, worth Rs 1,500 each, for attending the event. The jawan smelled a rat and immediately alerted his commanders who began a discreet inquiry into the issue, they said.  "Expedia group company which is a global travel technology is using its subsidiary company like expedia.com, cheaptickets.com and taxibazar to lure travellers coming to joint check post Attari and illegally charge money from them, providing unauthorised VIP passes or vouchers, " the BSF said in its complaint.  It is assessed that this is a multinational scam being run by various online companies, it said in the complaint.  It was also found that these websites offer a package of USD 41 (about Rs 2,900) per person that includes taxi fare from Amritsar to Attari, a VIP pass for seating for the retreat event and drinks, they said.  With the practice coming to light, BSF's Punjab frontier had issued a public statement through its Twitter handle on September 2 stating, "#BSF or any other agency doesn't charge any entry fee from visitors for Retreat Ceremony Parade at #JCPAttari, #Amritsar." "Beware of touts/travel agencies offering VIP passes for the parade and charging money," it said.  During investigation, officials of BSF's Punjab frontier found that the server where the payment for the illegal VIP passes was sent could be based out of India as no local bank account number was provided to deposit the funds. The border force alleged in its police compliant that the company was using a "proxy server" as a payment gateway to avoid detection. A senior officer of the force said that there were no agent contacts in Amritsar or any other part of the country so there was no physical interface between the fraudsters and the gullible travellers. While the Punjab Police has pressed section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code to take the investigation forward, BSF officials have asked them to add charges of cybercrime too. The popular beating retreat ceremony is conducted everyday by the BSF in coordination with their counterparts Pak Rangers.  It involves lowering of the flags of the two countries in the evening hours along with foot stomping manoeuvres of the troops and it ends with the forceful shutting of gates on the either side. PTI NES  AAR

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