Pune police chief Amitabh Gupta told reporters on Friday, “The investigators are also looking into the possible links of people from the loan app firm with dubious operators in China and Dubai.”
So far, the police have managed to freeze 56 bank accounts collectively accounting for deposits worth more than Rs69.27 lakh. The police have also seized 48 mobile phones with SIM cards, a desktop computer and a laptop, 30 unused SIM cards, 27 cheque books and passbooks, 167 debit and credit cards, a card swipe machine, 15 PAN cards, 11 Aadhaar cards, four voter ID cards and four stamp papers from the nine people.
On Tuesday, the cyber police had raided a loan app company’s bogus call centre in the Nandini Layout area of Bengaluru as part of an investigation into a Hadapsar-based business woman’s complaint about its staffers harassing and extorting over Rs1 lakh from her since February this year. The police had then arrested nine staffers, including six women, of the call centre and a Pune court remanded them in police custody till October 7.
The same company also had another bogus call centre in Bengaluru from where the other two persons were taken into custody as part of the second batch of arrests over Wednesday and Thursday.
“We suspect more such call centres of the firm are in operation across various places,” said Gupta.
“Investigations revealed that multiple teams have been performing varied tasks like opening of current/saving accounts at banks in Pune, Latur, Jalgaon, Solapur and Bengaluru in the names of casual workers, collecting cheque books, pass books, ATM cards, registered SIM card and Internet banking ID and password details and handing over the same to the loan app company, along with the mobile phone SIM cards taken in the names of these workers; technical teams creating the loan apps; teams working at bogus call centers and teams handling money, across different states,” the police chief said.
“Each team is cut off from each other. But these teams operate in a coordinated manner to trap people with instant loan offers and then threaten, blackmail and extort money from them,” he said.
Deputy commissioner of police (Cyber) Bhagyashri Navtake said, “Along with the teams involved in getting SIM cards, opening bank accounts or collecting data, there was one more team operating. This team used to collect the money recovered from the victims and convert it into crypto currency or other forms and transfer it in different parts of the country or even outside the country.”
Most of the nine others arrested in the second batch are people who would open bank accounts and secure cellphone SIM cards in the names of casual workers and hand over the same to the loan app company to use in the call center to call the victims, Gupta said.
He said, “There are some master links coordinating all these teams. The operators of these apps are based in China and Dubai. Some of the arrested persons told the police that those who appear to be of Chinese origin were involved in the scam.”