The next time someone insists on paying you with a cheque, think about it. The last thing you want is have the bank teller tell you that the cheque cannot be cashed in as there is an insufficient balance in the bank account of the cheque issuer.
Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has been registering an increasing number of fraud cases recently. People are coming forth to report to RBP on deceptive practices, such as fraudulent cheques.
Thimphu police has registered 6 cases of fraudulent cheques in 2015, out of which 2 cases were charge sheeted to court, 1 forwarded as civil case, and the remaining 3 cases are still under investigation.
Of the 6 registered cases, the maximum cheque amount is for Nu 400,000 and minimum amount is Nu 46,000. The person charged in the civil case is at large and an arrest warrant is in effect against the person. The people involved in the 3 cases under investigation are also at large.
RBP has a certain criteria to verify if a cheque issued is fraudulent or not. According to RBP, a timeframe of 3 months is given to see if the suspect has deposited the required amount as signed on the cheque.
In the first month, the victim must cash in the cheque, but if the cheque bounces due to insufficient funds then the victim should get a letter from the bank and inform the person who has issued the cheque. The victim must ask the suspect to deposit the amount. If the amount is not deposited after the 2nd and 3rd month then action is taken against the suspect.
“After that if the suspect fails to deposit the money, or if the account is with zero balance then this kind of case comes under cheque fraudulent,” RBP said. In addition, police said that those people committing such crimes know the procedures, and therefore, take advantage of the situation.
Among repeat offenders is a 34-year-old man from Jabcho, Chukha. He has issued 23 cheques to shopkeepers and owners of enterprises, tire shops, garment shops, etc.
A 32- year-old shopkeeper is a victim of fraud. He was deceived by a woman who gave him a fraudulent cheque.
He said, “She came to my shop, did lots of grocery shopping, asked us to do the packing, but finally when I did the totaling she said that the cash she had was insufficient.”
He accepted part of the bill payment with the little cash that she had on her, and the remaining balance in a cheque, only to find out later that she has insufficient balance in her account.
“It’s been more than two months that I have been checking on her bank balance and still her account is nil,” he said.
Another person, a woman who owns a hotel, said that she was deceived by a couple who stayed at her hotel and paid with a cheque.
“I went to withdraw the amount and found the bank account was nil. I waited for three months as told by my friend and was still the account is nil,” she said.
She also said that she could not report the case to police because the amount was not worth reporting. However, she is still holding on to the cheque in hopes that the account will have enough money to withdraw from in the future.
Similarly, a 28-year-old private employee was deceived by an acquaintance who borrowed cash from him “I know the man but was not that close to him. I felt pity on him because he was in urgent need of money. I lent him some cash and he issued me a cheque asking me to withdraw the next day.”
“But the next day when I went to bank, I found that he had zero balance, and thereafter his phone was switched off and I couldn’t find him. I checked several times but it’s the same,” he said.
Another victim of fraud, a business woman, was given a cheque which was overwritten using three different pens to write on the cheque. “I never knew that I would be deceived by a person with a cheque,” she said.
According to RBP, regardless of the amount, huge or small, such fraud cases should be reported to the police as it will help in the prevention of crime.
“It is one’s responsibility to avoid accepting cheques from unknown persons no matter what the consequences are. Do not accept any cheque from those who are not close enough to trust,” RBP cautions.
As per the Penal Code of Bhutan, 2004, Section 304, a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of fraudulent cheque writing, if the defendant issues or passes a cheque knowing that the drawer will not honor it.
Section 305 states that, for the purpose of this Penal Code, an issuer is presumed to know that, the cheque will not be honored by the drawer, if the issuer has no account with the drawer at the time the cheque is issued.
Or knows that the fund with the drawer is insufficient to cover the cheque and payment is refused by the drawer for lack of funds upon presentation within thirty days after issue and the issuer fails to make good within sixty days after receiving notice of that refusal.
In addition, Section 306 states that, the offence of fraudulent cheque writing shall be a value-based sentencing.