Delhi based travel agent arrested for cheating British Airways
A Delhi based travel agent was arrested on Thursday for allegedly siphoning off 20 million mileage points or Avios awarded to frequent fliers of the British Airways. The Crime Branch of the Delhi Police, which made the arrest, said that by valuing each point to an approximate 1.5 pounds, total worth of the Avios stolen by the accused could easily be somewhere between a whooping 25 to 30 million pounds.
The accused was identified as Damanpreet Singh Bedi , a 34-year-old resident of North East Delhi’s Shahdara area. Bedi, who dropped out from college, managed to set up an independent company for himself after gaining experience in various travel agencies. He also worked as booking agent with Amadeus India Private Limited, a travel conglomerate which provided software solutions in the field of travel management.
According to police Bedi had over a period of time mastered ways to exploit Avios Travel Reward Programme under which Avios or mileage points are awarded to the fliers with each ticket. The points are redeemed for multiple purposes like hotel bookings, cab facilities but are mainly used to avail airline tickets.
“The Crime Branch received a complaint that mileage points of some of the fliers were redeemed illegally by unauthorised agencies in favour of other passengers, who were not entitled to avail the same. Days into the investigation, we were led to IP address’s used for unauthorised access to create fake executive accounts,” said Ravindra Yadav, Joint Commissioner of Police.
He added that subsequent probe revealed that the IP address belonged to a Delhi based travel company by the name Kripa Travels which is owned by Bedi.
“The accused used to access the database of tickets booked by other agents and stole the data of fliers. By using the stolen details like PNR number, passenger name and other details, he used to create a fake executive club account in the name of the passenger to access the Avios points.This way, he accumulated the Avios points of various passengers,” Yadav said adding the customers were not at loss but it was the British Airways which was the victim of Bedi’s farud.
“Even if a false executive club account was created, a genuine passenger could redeem his points This means that the genuine customers were not at loss but the loss was of British Airways as it led to duplicate use of points,” said Yadav
Several incriminating documents were recovered in the subsequent raid of Bedi’s office,police said . According to investigators, a Hard disk of computer and a router used to steal data were recovered along with 28 passports and some American Express credit cards.
The British Airways later in the evening released a statement saying that the company was assisting the police in India with an investigation into alleged fraudulent activity.
“We would like to reassure customers that none of our systems have been illegally accessed and no Executive Club members have had their data accessed or frequent flyer points stolen,” read the statement.