The Hyderabad Police has unearthed a mega fraud ring involving Chinese handlers in which at least 15,000 Indians were duped of over Rs 700 crore in less than a year. Police said the money was routed to China via Dubai and some of it was also sent to an account operated by the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah.
“We are alerting Central agencies regarding this and the cyber crime unit of the Union home ministry has been given the details. It is quite shocking and surprising that even highly paid software professionals have lost as much as Rs 82 lakh,” Hyderabad Police Commissioner CV Anand told NDTV.
Mr Anand said the police suspect that a part of the money was converted into cryptocurrency and deposited into a wallet operated by Hezbollah. Nine people have been arrested – four from Hyderabad, three from Mumbai and two from Ahmedabad – and the 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 being approached by a person who said he had been conned of Rs 28 lakh, found that people were lured in the name of investment-cum-part-time-jobs. They were asked to do simple tasks, such as liking YouTube videos or writing Google reviews, and were paid for completing them.
The victims, who have lost Rs 5-6 lakh on average, were approached on Telegram and Whatsapp. They invested small amounts of up to Rs 5,000 and were given high returns, including double the money in some cases, after completing the first task. The investors were then asked to put in higher amounts in a series of 7-8 transactions.
A fake window showed the money purportedly earned by the investors, but they were not allowed to withdraw the money till they completed all the tasks. By then, they had already put in several lakhs of rupees.
After one Shiva approached the Hyderabad cyber crime branch in April, saying he had been duped of Rs 28 lakh by cyber fraudsters, investigators found 48 bank accounts, which had been set up in the name of shell companies. At the time, the agency believed that the fraud was to the tune of Rs 584 crores.
Further investigation revealed that another Rs 128 crore had been swindled by the scamsters. A total of 113 Indian bank accounts were used in the scam.
The money moved through multiple accounts and was converted into cryptocurrency. It was then routed to China through Dubai.
“The accounts, which were opened in India using Indian SIM cards, were subsequently remotely operated in Dubai. The fraudsters were in touch with Chinese operators, who are the masterminds of the scam,” said a police officer.
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 one Munawar, who is also from the city. Munawar had gone to Lucknow with three aides – Arul Das, Shah Sumair and Sameer Khan – and they opened 65 accounts of 33 shell companies. They were paid Rs 2 lakh for each account and were arrested after the police traced Munawar.
During their interrogation, they told the police that the accounts were opened on the direction of three other people involved in the scam, whom they have only identified as Manish, Vikas and Rajesh. The police are on the lookout for these three men.
The 65 accounts were then used by the Chinese masterminds – Kevin Jun, Lee Lou Langzhou and Shasha – to move over Rs 128 crore.
Details of the transactions revealed that some of the accounts were being operated by a Dubai-based group using remote-access apps. The people in the Dubai group had connections with the Chinese network and were transferring money into 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. A police officer said Prakash used to speak to the Chinese handlers and shared the bank account details and other information with them.
The officer said three people have also been arrested from Mumbai and they have information about at least six people based in Dubai who were involved in the scam.