Man who won the lottery is unmasked as fraud and loser

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The Independent Online
INDIA'S FIRST big-time cyber criminal is in custody awaiting trial this week, as his countrymen digest the simplicity with which he acquired a fortune.

Kola Venkat Krishnamohan is accused of persuading 40 individuals and several banks to part with 60 million rupees, about pounds 960,000. The commissioner of police in Vijayawada, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, told reporters that Mr Krishnamohan was a compulsive gambler with debts amounting to 30 million rupees (pounds 480,000).

Mr Krishnamohan, 42, claimed two of his gambling cronies had cheated him. "I had to get out of the mess I was in," he told a local reporter. The Eurolottery was one of his regular flutters, and he conceived a simple plan. He created an Indian website for Eurolottery and published on it the news that one Kola Krishnamohan had won three-quarters of a billion rupees - about pounds 12.5m.

When he leaked this "news" to a local paper, they checkedthe website and confirmed their story. That was all they needed. "It was surprising that no newsperson asked me for proof," Mr Krishnamohan said after his arrest. His imaginary good fortune made him an instant celebrity. With the explanation that his winnings were tied up in a British bank while he negotiated a tax amnesty with the Indian authorities, he easily persuaded credulous folk to lend him large sums of money, promising repayment with massive interest. He boughtcars and a smart new house and the police provided him with an armed guard.

He even succeeded in dragging Andhra Pradesh's famously computer literate chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu, into his net. Mr Krishnamohan responded to an appeal for donations to Mr Naidu's Telugu Desam Party, with a cheque for one million rupees - about pounds 16,000. He was, it is rumoured, angling for a safe seat in the state assembly.

When Mr Krishnamohan's creditors started getting restless, he stalled them and then fled. His arrest this week followed a three-week police hunt. But Mr Krishnamohan seems unbowed by the experience. Reporters who met him after his arrest said he looked "happy and far from unwell".