The Hyderabad police have unearthed a mega fraud ring involving Chinese handlers in which at least 15,000 Indians were defrauded of over Rs 700 crore in less than a year. Police said the money was sent to China via Dubai and some of it was also sent to an account run by the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah.
“We are alerting central agencies about this and the cyber crime unit of the Union Home Ministry has been detailed. It is quite shocking and surprising that even highly paid software professionals have lost Rs 82 lakh,” Hyderabad Police Commissioner CV Anand told NDTV.
Mr. Anand said the police suspected that a portion of the money was converted into cryptocurrency and deposited in a wallet operated by Hezbollah. Nine people have been arrested – four from Hyderabad, three from Mumbai and two from Ahmedabad – and police are on the lookout for at least six more.
The cyber crime branch of the Hyderabad police, which began investigating the case in April, after approaching a man who said he had been defrauded of Rs 28 lakh, found that people were being lured in the name of investment-cum-part-time-job. They were asked to do simple tasks, like liking YouTube videos or writing Google reviews, and were paid to complete them.
The victims, who lost an average of Rs 5-6 lakh, were contacted on Telegram and WhatsApp. They invested as little as Rs 5,000 and were given high returns including double Rs in some cases after completing the first job. Investors were then asked to hold higher amounts over a series of 7-8 transactions.
A fake window showed the money earned by the investors, but they were not allowed to withdraw the money until they had completed all the tasks. By that time they had deposited several lakhs of rupees.
After a Shiv approached the Hyderabad cybercrime branch in April, saying he had been duped of Rs 28 lakh by cyber fraudsters, investigators found 48 bank accounts, which were set up in the names of shell companies. At that time, the agency believed that a fraud of Rs 584 crore had taken place.
Further investigation revealed that the scammers had laundered another Rs 128 crore. A total of 113 Indian bank accounts were used in the scam.
Money is transferred through multiple accounts and converted into cryptocurrency. It is then sent to China via Dubai.
“Accounts opened in India using Indian SIM cards were later operated remotely in Dubai. Fraudsters got in touch with Chinese operators, who were the masterminds of the scam,” said a police official.
One such account was in the name of Hyderabad-based Radhika Marketing Company and was linked to a phone number registered in the name of Munawar, who is also a resident of the city. Munawar went to Lucknow with three assistants – Arul Das, Shah Sumair and Sameer Khan and they opened 65 accounts of 33 shell companies. 2 lakh for each of their accounts and arrested after the police traced Munawar.
During their interrogation, they told the police that the accounts were opened at the behest of three others involved in the scam, whom they identified only as Manish, Vikas and Rajesh. The police are looking for these three.
The 65 accounts were then used by the Chinese masterminds – Kevin Jun, Li Lu Langzhou and Shasha – to launder Rs 128 crore.
Transaction details revealed that some of the accounts were being operated by a Dubai-based group using a remote-access app. People in the Dubai group had connections to Chinese networks and were transferring money to crypto wallets.
Some of the wallets used for this were owned by Ahmedabad-based Prakash Mulchandbhai Prajapati and Kumar Prajapati, both of whom have now been arrested. Prakash used to talk to Chinese handlers and share bank account details and other information with them, a police official said.
Three people have also been arrested from Mumbai and they have information of at least six people in Dubai who were involved in the scam, the official said.