Updated: June 13, 2021 12:04:00 pm
Karnataka police have arrested nine people, including four foreign nationals, for their alleged involvement in a hawala racket and busted a money-laundering scam amounting to Rs 290 crore.
M D Sharath, superintendent of police (cybercrime), who led the investigation, said Anas Ahmed, a Kerala-based businessman, was the kingpin. “We have identified that he has very close connections with the Chinese hawala operators. Anas Ahmed is married to a Chinese national and incidentally, he studied in China,” the SP said.
Ahmed was found to be offering several financial schemes online and through mobile applications luring clients with promises of high returns on investments. Those in the racket would pay a small pay-out initially and stop the payments once a significant amount is collected. “They even open shell companies for routing the funds collected fraudulently,” the officer added.
Two Chinese, two Tibetans and five people from Bengaluru, Delhi and Surat who were acting as directors of the companies have been arrested so far. “It is very pertinent to note that the Chinese handlers possess a huge number of shell companies and bank accounts. Lured by the offer of the Chinese nationals, many innocent Indians and Tibetans have fallen in their trap to open shell companies and open bank accounts for them,” Sharath added.
The police were alerted of the scam after a prominent payment gateway company filed a complaint after it noticed that the accused were using its services. The complainant noted that the accused had falsely claimed that they were running a business in a range of categories from gaming to e-commerce.
‘Powerbank’ app: How it is linked to the racket
After an initial investigation, CID officials have found that a Google Playstore application named ‘Powerbank’ was used by the accused to collect payments. The accused defrauded the payment gateway company (complainant) by using the latter’s computer resource, later deviating from their original category of business in which they had registered.
“Through customer complaints, the complainant company got to know that the public invested a certain amount in the ‘Powerbank’ app to earn some percentage of daily and weekly interest on the invested amount. The accused, after accepting the invested amount, neither gave the agreed interest, nor the principal amount thereby withholding the principal amount of their customers,” CID sleuths explained.
A case under sections 66D (cheating by personation using computer resources) of the IT Act and 420 (cheating) of the IPC was filed on May 1.
The CID has appealed to all investors in the ‘Powerbank’ application to approach the cybercrime division with appropriate details. “We are witnessing that criminals are the perpetual early adopters of technology to defraud the public. The public should be wary of any investment that promises over 12 per cent annual returns as it could be a fraudulent one,” P S Sandhu, DGP, CID Karnataka warned.
“The search for Ahmed (the kingpin) is on as we continue to ascertain more possible links of the racket, also to converge details to track the main accused and his associates overseas as well,” a senior official said.
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