CBI cracks down on international cyber fraud syndicate targeting Indian, Singaporean citizens under Operation Chakra-II
In a massive crackdown against organized cyber financial crimes, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under its Operation Chakra-II, unearthed an international fraud of hundreds of crores and a cyber-enabled impersonation fraud.
In the first case, in 2022, based upon various inputs, including the one given by the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) under the MHA, the CBI registered a case against sophisticated, organized cybercrime being perpetuated on Indian citizens, by foreign scamsters in the name of investment, loan and job opportunities, CBI officials said.
After carrying out a detailed analysis of the complex money trail, the CBI recently conducted raids at the locations of the suspects.
“The fraudsters, allegedly, exploited various social media platforms and their advertisement portals, encrypted chat applications, and SMS to entice victims with promises of lucrative part-time jobs through Ponzi schemes and multi-level marketing initiatives.
“To evade detection, these criminals utilized a multi-layered approach involving UPI accounts, cryptocurrencies, and international money transfers,” a CBI officer said.
Allegedly, the fraudsters were using the advertisement tool of a well-known search engine, as well as rented headers to send bulk SMS messages, thereby creating a web of deception.
“Victims were lured to deposit funds through UPI accounts, in the hope of high returns. The ill-gotten money was laundered through a complex network of UPI accounts, ultimately converging into cryptocurrency or gold purchases using falsified credentials,” said the officer.
The CBI identified 137 shell companies engaged in fraudulent activities.
“A significant number of these entities were registered with the Registrar of Companies in Bengaluru. Rigorous field investigations led to the identification of these companies’ directors, most of whom were based in Bengaluru. Some of these directors were also associated with a Bengaluru-based payout merchant,” said the officer.
This merchant, central to the fraudulent operation, controlled around 16 distinct bank accounts, where a huge sum of around Rs.357 crore was funneled.
“The funds were then dispersed across various accounts in a deliberate attempt to obscure the trail. Searches conducted in Bengaluru, Kochi, and Gurugram yielded substantial evidence, shedding light on the alleged activities of the shell companies’ directors,” said the officer.
The association of the accused with a foreign national has also been detected.
“Roles of two chartered accountants from Bengaluru were found in altering directorships and contact information associated with these fraudulent entities. Searches at their premises led to the recovery of certain documents, email communications, and WhatsApp chats, providing critical insights into their alleged role in facilitating the said foreign national’s involvement in these operations,” said the officer.
The second case was registered against unknown individuals on the allegations of cyber-enabled financial crimes targeting citizens of Singapore.
“The inputs in the matter were received from the Singapore Police Force via Interpol channels relating to over 300 cyber-enabled frauds against Singapore citizens involving more than 100 Indian Bank accounts, spread across ten states/ UTs,” said the officer.
“It was further alleged that these criminals employed a variety of cyber techniques, including social engineering methods such as phishing, vishing, smishing, and fraudulent tech support, targeting over 400 Singaporeans,” said the official.
After registering the said case, the CBI probe revealed a vast cyber fraud network targeting Singapore nationals.
“During searches at the premises of the accused in 35 locations, including Patna, Kolkata, Lucknow, Varanasi, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Bhopal, Chennai, Kochi, and Madurai, incriminating documents related to identity proofs, fraudulent banking transactions, and other crucial evidence were recovered,” said the officer.
“The operation uncovered multiple gangs involved in targeting Singaporean nationals, and their identities were ascertained during the course of the investigation,” the officer added.
[With Inputs from IANS]
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