Scamsters turn the tables on premier financial intelligence unit

The Financial Intelligence Unit — India,a central agency that has been set up as a first line of defence against suspect financial transactions,ironically finds itself a victim of financial fraud

Written by Surabhi | New Delhi | Published: March 28, 2012 12:59:59 am

The Financial Intelligence Unit — India (FIU-IND),a central agency that has been set up as a first line of defence against suspect financial transactions,ironically finds itself a victim of financial fraud.

There has been a slew of “scam” emails and letters purporting to be from the FIU-IND,requesting fees from corporates and even government departments in lieu of the transfer of money or release of stuck consignments. The frontline agency has now been forced to issue advisories to complainants and fraud warnings in general.

The modus operandi is simple.

“Criminals who fraudulently claim to be from the FIU-IND commonly approach victims with tales of moneys being owed to them by way of a lottery win or an inheritance which will be payable by international transfers of funds. In some cases,exorbitant fees have been claimed for providing,among other things,anti-terrorist clearance certificate,money-laundering clearance certificate and tax-clearance certificate for release of consignment and parcel,” according to the advisory issued by the agency.

To gain access to these funds,victims are asked by criminals to pay fees for “fictitious services” relating to verification of the origin of the funds or issue of certificates.

“The criminals claim that the funds or consignment will be blocked if the customer fails to pay the fees,” according to FIU’s fraud warning. The agency has gone on to clarify that it does not maintain any regional office or employees outside its office at New Delhi.

“We came to know of this menace over two years ago. Since then,we have alerted banks and other financial institutions about such frauds and have also asked them to report such cases to us,” an official with the agency said.

In the wake of specific complaints regarding emails claiming to be from FIU,the agency has clarified that it does not request fees or have the power to block any account or issue any ‘certificates’ for anti-money laundering or terrorist financing compliance.

“Any approach using the FIU-IND’s name in relation to payment of fees or release of funds is fraudulent and should be reported to law enforcement authorities in the recipient’s home jurisdiction.”

FIU-IND was set by the Centre in November 2004 as the central national agency responsible for receiving,processing,analyzing and disseminating information relating to suspect financial transactions and functions as an independent body reporting directly to the Economic Intelligence Council under the finance minister.

It’s not the first time that agencies of the finance ministry are finding themselves in a spot. Other finance ministry agencies,and even finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s name have popped up in such frauds.

The finance ministry recently issued a clarification on frauds being committed in the name of the Central Board of Excise and Customs and the department of disinvestment. “Fictitious mail addresses are being used to inform the individual that they have received an amount,which will be delivered after sending the authentication form along with a specified sum through a form,” finance minister’s office said in a release on Thursday.

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