BHOPAL: An international syndicate that first lured young Indian businessmen into romance trap, then convinced them to invest huge sums in shell firms/companies through malicious web pages before laundering the invested sums in cryptocurrency to fraudsters based in Pakistan and China — has been busted by the Madhya Pradesh Police’s Cyber Cell.
Four people including Gurgaon-based chartered accountant Avik Kedia, Delhi-based company secretary Dolly Makhija, Dilip Patel of Gujarat and Vicky Makhija of Delhi (Dolly Makhija’s brother) have been arrested by the MP Police Cyber Cell’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) which started the probe in the matter in May
According to Yogesh Chaudhary, the additional director general of police (ADG) MP Cyber Cell, two months back the young son of a Bhopal-based businessman approached the state police cyber cell headquarters.
“The young businessman came in contact with a Japan-based woman Doris through online dating app Bumble in March. The woman who claimed to be a business and economics analyst lured the young businessman to invest in trading of spices through a web page, which actually turned out to be malicious. As guided by Doris, the young investor invested over Rs 97 lakh in the current accounts of five companies/firms, which later turned out to be shell firms/companies,” Chaudhary told The New Indian Express.
After investing for around three months (March to May), when the young Bhopal based businessman was unable to fetch the promised returns on investment of Rs 97 lakh-plus, he reported the matter to the MP Police’s Cyber Cell HQ, which formed a special investigation team (SIT) SP Gurukaran Singh and ASP Vaibhav Srivastava.
The SIT, which also comprised ASP Richa Jain, inspector Abhishek Sonekar, and three sub-inspectors – Vinay Narvaria, Ashwini Chaudhary, and Anuj Samadhia spent hundreds of hours in tracking the money trail and understanding the modus operandi of the first of its kind international cyber fraud syndicate.
“Subsequent probe revealed that the five current accounts of the shell firms/companies in which the Bhopal businessman had made his investments, actually had received around Rs 30 to Rs 35 crores in last two-three months. The subsequent probe took MP’s cybercops to cryptocurrency traders, female company secretary and a chartered accountant in various parts of India, including Rajkot, Delhi and Gurgaon, who were crucial Indian links of the racket,” the ADG-Cyber Cell said.
Delving deeper into the racket revealed that the Indian cryptocurrency traders spread in the country were laundering the money deposited in these bank accounts (which actually were operated by them) through cryptocurrency exchanges (including Indian cryptocurrency exchange Wazirix and cryptocurrency exchange Binance in tax haven Caymon Islands) to actual beneficiaries/fraudsters based in Pakistan and China.
The shell companies and their bank accounts were created within a span of 6 to 12 hours by the Delhi-based woman company secretary and the Gurgaon-based chartered accountant for clients in Pakistan as well as a Chinese national, who had visited India a year ago.
Searches are on for six others including a Chinese national. Police have declared a bounty of Rs 10,000 each on any information leading to their arrest.
The MP Police are now working with central and external intelligence agencies to track the actual beneficiary of this racket operating from Pakistan. The agencies are also working to find out where the alleged fraud money is laundered from India to Pakistan and China via cryptocurrency exchanges, including the possibility of it being used to fund anti-India activities.
“Two more similar complaints of young businessmen from Bhopal and Indore having been trapped in a similar fashion and consequently having lost around Rs 75 lakh are being probed by the same SIT now,” Chaudhary said.