June 27, 2022
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Covid untangles the ‘Racket,’ which includes a BPO, discounted Air India tickets, and unpaid dues

When a Chandigarh-based travel agent called Air India’s customer service centre in February last year to get clarification on a Kathmandu flight he was about to book for a passenger, he unwittingly became a part of a scam that cost him and others over Rs 50 lakh. The nefarious operation, which involved booking Air India tickets through a two-decade-old BPO company IGT Solutions without paying the airline, went off without a hitch until the second wave of Covid19 hit the country, after which it began to unravel and come apart at the seams.

Last February, the agent dialled an Air India customer service number in Gurgaon, seeking clarification on the name sample for tickets he was booking for a Kathmandu-bound flight. IGT Solutions, which manages the Air India call centre, promised him a callback from one of their customer service representatives. Soon after, he received a name from someone claiming to be an Air India consultant who was assisting him with his business.

Simultaneously, Air India became aware of an accounting discrepancy in the amount it expected to receive from IGT Solutions for tickets it believes were issued on the airline’s behalf by the BPO firm. “Legitimate tickets were issued, but the airline was not paid for these reservations.” Typically, such inconsistencies arise on a regular basis and are resolved in a matter of days, weeks, or months. “However, when this mismatch lasted for a longer period of time, we approached IGT Solutions and asked them to investigate,” an Air India government official told The Indian Express. He refused to reveal the total amount that the airline is expected to receive as a result of those tickets.

On its part, IGT Solutions filed a first information report (FIR) at the Cyber Crime Police Station in Gurgaon last month against unknown individuals, stating that “multiple tickets were issued through the Air India system with no payments being received by the airline, which was notified by Air India to IGT.”

“The company also looked into the bookings made using the IGT employees’ log-in ids and passwords,” according to the FIR dated May 7, which was reviewed by The Indian Express. “These employees were not even authorised, nor trained for issuing of tickets, and in few instances were not in the shift at the time when fraudulent tickets were made.”

In the FIR, IGT Solutions stated that after the discrepancy was discovered, it provided specific IP addresses to Air India, from which it provides decision centre services, so that the airline could block access to all other IP addresses. “Because this control was not in place, we have discovered that a few/possibly many tickets have been issued without any payments,” says Manmeet Bakshi, Senior Manager-Fraud Investigations at IGT Solutions. Multiple messages sent to Bakshi in search of comment for this story received no response. IGT Solutions did not respond to a detailed set of questions sent by this newspaper. IGT Solutions was previously known as InterGlobe Technologies, and it was owned by Rahul Bhatia, the billionaire promoter of IndiGo Airlines. AION Capital, a joint venture between Apollo Global Management and ICICI Ventures, bought the name centre firm for $230 million in 2019. According to reports, AION Capital is more likely to sell its 85 percent stake in IGT Solutions to private equity firm Baring PE Asia for more than $800 million.

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