Mumbai: 10 Chinese nationals involved in international loan application scam costing hundreds of millions of rupees
Cyber police officials from the Mumbai Crime Branch, who busted an international loan application fraud racket, said at least ten Chinese nationals are involved in the crime and are the beneficiaries of money embezzled from India using cryptocurrency.
Cyber Police, which arrested 14 defendants from across India, said the defendants had been behind the fraud since 2018, the number of victims could be over 1,000 and the total money stolen could be as high as several hundred million rupees.
Mumbai Police Co-Commissioner (Crime) Suhas Warke said at a press conference on Friday, “The accused had opened more than 360 bank accounts and more than 200 shell companies to siphon off the ill-gotten money. Over 50 cryptocurrency wallet accounts were used to transfer money.
“We froze several bank accounts and recovered Rs 14 crore. Another 2.17 lakh USDT was found in cryptocurrency wallets. We have seized 39 phones, 211 SIM cards, 19 laptops and other electronic items which were used to commit the crime,” said Hemraj Singh Rajput, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cyber).
Police said the accused downloaded the digital loan apps from Google Playstore or sent them directly to the victims via SMS or WhatsApp messages. They were using at least 37 fraudulent loan applications and another 200 loan applications are under scanning.
The accused used to gain access to personal details like pictures, victim’s contact list while lending a few thousand rupees and later extorted much more money than the loan amount by transforming their photos with pornographic images and sending them to everyone in their contact list. They also called the loanees and their family and friends and abused them.
Crime Branch cyber police began investigating the case after a loanee died by suicide in Malad in May 2022 after being harassed by “loan collectors”. After investigations that lasted two months, police learned that the masterminds, believed to be Chinese nationals, had started front companies with Indians as directors of those companies. The accused also hired young people who needed jobs.
“Each person had a different role. One particular group made phone calls and offered loans. Another group ensured that the loans were granted and a third group called the beneficiaries to remind them of the repayment. A fourth group then sexually harassed the victims and extorted money…” said a cyber police officer, who is part of a team of 22 officers and 12 constables from all five cyber police stations in Mumbai.