ED attaches Rs.72 crore fund of an Indian finance company in Chinese-funded instant loan apps probe case

Kudos was lending money & acting like an NBFC without RBI permission

Kudos was lending money & acting like an NBFC without RBI permission
Kudos was lending money & acting like an NBFC without RBI permission

Chinese instant loan app case: Kudos Finance & Investments accounts attached for illegal lending, money laundering

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached funds of over Rs.72 crore of a non-banking financial company (NBFC) in connection with a money-laundering investigation against mobile phone app-based loan dishing companies who were “flush with investments” from China and Hong Kong, the agency said on Wednesday. The agency said a provisional order was issued under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for attaching funds of Rs.72,32,42,045 lying in bank accounts and payment gateway accounts of Kudos Finance and Investments Private Limited, an Indian NBFC company, and its
fintech partners.

The action pertains to an ED probe against “a number of Indian NBFC companies and their fintech partner mobile applications (apps) which were booked by Telangana Police in multiple FIRs for illegal lending and for using extortionist means to recover exorbitant rate of interest from their customers.” The ED probe found that various Indian companies “flush with investments” from China and Hong Kong created MoUs with defunct NBFCs and gave security deposits in the name of ‘performance guarantees‘.

“NBFCs opened separate merchant IDs with payment gateways like Paytm, Razorpay, etc and allowed these fintech companies to start full-scale online lending operations. Against RBI guidelines, Indian NBFCs allowed fintech companies to piggyback on their license and do full-scale lending in their names,” said ED in a statement. Mobile apps of the fintech companies gave “unsecured” instant micro personal loans for terms ranging from 7-14 days, added the agency.

“They used to deduct 15-25 percent of the loan at the time of disbursement itself in the name of processing fee. The rate of interest charged was also exorbitant. Their apps would also capture customers’ mobile data by getting various access privileges etc,” the ED said, adding that these firms than resort to “hard recovery” methods, which forced some loan defaulters to commit suicide.

The agency said, “personal data of the customers was misused and calls were made to the friends and relatives of the customers and abusive language was used”. “Even social media posts were made against the defaulters to shame them. Unable to bear the level of harassment, certain people have committed suicide,” said the anti-money laundering agency. These apps managed to have a recovery rate of more than 90 percent and earned huge profits, the ED said.

The accused NBFC — Kudos Finance and Investment Private Limited — is one such NBFC company that had MOUs with 39 fintech companies and illegally accepted ‘security deposits’ from them and allowed them to do the lending activity. “Despite not having net owned funds of more than Rs.10 crore, in complete violation of RBI guidelines, this NBFC (actually its partner mobile apps) did lending of Rs.2,224 crore in a short span of time.

“With the help of extortionist type call centers, collectively they generated profits of Rs.544 crore for the apps and also earned a commission of Rs.24 crore,” said the probe agency. The agency in December 2020, arrested the promoter, director, and chief executive officer (CEO) of this NBFC, Pavitra Pradip Walvekar.

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