Mumbai: Up to 10 Chinese nationals are under scanners by Mumbai cyber police, who busted a massive international credit fraud racket allegedly run by Chinese nationals in India since 2018.
They have lured hundreds of Indian youth by offering them jobs in FinTech companies and call centers, making them work systematically for the credit fraud thug and cheating thousands of Indians out of thousands of crores over the past four years.
Investigators suspect the scam money was converted into cryptocurrency and transferred to China under the guise of shell company business transactions.
Joint Police Commissioner Suhas Warke said on Friday that cyber police had broken up the massive racket, which was being operated in a well-organized manner, and arrested its 14 members from different parts of the country (HT had reported on Thursday).
“The thug had dedicated members in every department. Some people would just make phone calls, some would fraudulently arrange SIM cards, some would take care of setting up bogus or shell companies, some would generate UPI IDs and some would send the scam money abroad by converting it into cryptocurrency ‘ Warke said.
Police have identified 50 cryptocurrency wallets used to conduct transactions to send money abroad through shell companies under the guise of investing in cryptocurrency.
In a well-coordinated manner, the dedicated team of 22 officers and 12 collaborators from all five Cyber Police Stations raided and made arrests last month. Only a few officers are still on the road. “We managed to crack down on the core group of the scam thug and arrest one of its Indian members who was left behind,” a senior official said.
In 2018, after recruiting hundreds of youth in India, the core group of Chinese nationals conducted seminars with the help of translators during the recruitment and training stages. After the system was set up in the country, the core group of thought leaders left India before the pandemic hit the country. But an Indian member of the thug’s top officials and core group was left behind, identified as 24-year-old Priyanshi Kandpal of Haldwani, Uttarakhand. She is among the 14 who were arrested. With a degree in finance, Kandpal also took a Chinese language course and joined the business as a translator in 2018. Later, she gradually rose to the top and became a core member of the racquet.
Targeting Indians with a six-region plan
A police officer explained how the racket worked and said the callers were working on different stages. One caller would make a call and offer loans while the other would help get the loan. Another sent due reminders and those who remained would get money back using harassment and torture tactics.
The callers would get a salary of almost €25,000, including incentives, and the next tier of staff were the team leaders (TLs) who would take care of teams of 40 callers. TLs would receive a monthly salary of €35,000- €40,000 with incentives. Then there were zone leaders who got paid €70,000 to €1 lakh, and the regional head would get a monthly salary of up €2 lakhs. The whole country was divided into six regions by the thug and the members worked from home.
Police have decided not to arrest the callers who had just called victims and processed their loan applications unaware of the top bosses’ fraudulent intent. They would be made witnesses in the case, a senior official said.
There were separate members who took care of creating UPI links to process the extortion transactions. “We found four to six UPI IDs linked to bank accounts used in the commission of the crime. There are several lakhs of UPI transactions made by the racket members for fraud,” an official said.
How was the mailbox company used?
An arrested defendant, Liang Chi Shang, whose grandfather was a Chinese citizen, is also a key member of the thug and would attend to shell company requirements for the thug’s operations. He would sell any shell company to the bat €3.5 lakh each. He also worked as a liaison and confrontation manager and was paid a salary of €2 lakh a month, part of the probe police officers said.
203 credit fraud apps were used
Mumbai Cyber Police investigation has revealed the thug has duped people across the country with 203 fraudulent loan apps. “Every time we managed to block the rogue credit apps from the Play Store, new ones came with different names. Sometimes they send direct links to people to download such apps,” said DCP Hemraj Rajput, head of the Mumbai Police Cyber Wing.
In May this year, Cyber Police wrote to the service provider to block 103 credit scam apps that scam people by extorting money from them by fraudulently gaining access to their contacts and private data.
Defendants were trained in China
Cyber police officials have learned that most of the arrested defendants (except for those who called the victims) have visited China several times in recent years and are suspected of having received training on how to use the scam racket. Several arrested defendants were in direct contact with their Chinese counterparts.
Apps curated for the scam
The racket’s China-based masterminds developed a highly professional Ding Talk mobile application for the racket’s smooth functioning. All members of the racket would operate this app. The callers, recovery workers, and other members would update the information on the online datasheet available in the app, and the racket would run fast. “If a member of the racquet had any doubts, they could call the high-end people in China directly through the internet-based calls and get advice. The data in this app is end-to-end encrypted, but we managed to collect some data as evidence during the live cheating sessions,” a senior police official said.
“We are also coordinating with the Nepalese police and checking if any member of the thug is linked to Nepal,” said another senior police official.
Police sources have said similar loan fraud rackets are being run by Chinese nationals in Southeast Asia and African countries.
Further arrests are likely in the case as it is an ongoing investigation. Concerned government agencies and law enforcement agencies would be briefed on the racket’s operations and their help would also be enlisted if needed, another senior official said.
“We will bring in financial experts and forensic experts for the massive investigation,” DCP Rajput said.
€23 crore rescued by police
Joint CP, Crime Suhas Warke said police have frozen 360 bank accounts linked to the racket and €14 million fraud funds were frozen in these bank accounts. Likewise, €2.17 lakh USDT (cryptocurrency), which is equivalent €1.76 crore was also seized by contacting crypto exchange service providers. Senior police sources said the process of freezing more than Rs.7 million scam funds was underway and would happen soon.
Fraudulent loan apps on cyber cops radar
Criminal Division Additional Commissioner Viresh Prabhu said the Cyber Police have been asked to take over investigations into all 29 credit fraud cases registered in Mumbai as they may have links to this thug. Investigations in this direction are ongoing. Previously, cyber police only investigated credit fraud cases involving more than €10 lakhs. So far, the thug’s involvement has been identified in two Cyber Police cases.
Tips for people from the police
– Do not take out a loan from a mobile loan app before verifying their background and credibility. Instead, contact a bank for a loan.
– Do not install such apps via a link sent via SMS.
-Do not give such apps permission to access your contact lists, media and camera
– Do not give your documents to unknown persons, they can be misused to fraudulently obtain SIM cards or open bank accounts in your name.
– Do not pay money to scammers, immediately report the matter to the police in 1903 and provide details of fraudulent transactions so that the money is frozen in the bank account or electronic wallet before the scammers withdraw or reroute it.
Report credit app scam on: 1903