Agencies of China, Romania and the U.S. are jointly acting with the CBI against cyber criminals in these countries who were allegedly hacking into U.S.-based websites.

As part of a synchronised crackdown on hackers operating from India, the United States, China and Romania, the Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday arrested a Pune-based mastermind who allegedly ran two websites offering services for hacking into email accounts.

Some people associated with the Indian Premier League are also under the scanner for attempting to hire the engineer, who had gained access to more than 900 accounts, of which 171 belong to the victims located in India.

The accused, identified as Amit Vikram Tiwari, 33, was arrested in 2003 for allegedly cheating a Mumbai-based credit card processing company by generating fake e-transactions through a website.

CBI investigations revealed that Amit had been operating www.hirehacker.net and www.anonymiti.com that offered hacking services at $250-$500 a client. Between February 2011 and February 2013, he had accessed 900 accounts. Most of his clients were based abroad. Investigations are under way to ascertain whether the accused had also accessed bank accounts or had any role to play in any other illegal online activities. “The present operation is the outcome of a coordinated probe by the CBI, the FBI, Combating Organised Crime of Romania, and the Ministry of Public Security in China,” said a senior CBI officer.

The operation followed a tip-off by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the U.S. a year ago on activities of a hacker who had gained access to Internet accounts. “The FBI shared with us the geographical location of the suspect, based on which we initiated the probe. A preliminary enquiry was instituted. Investigations revealed that the accused had been gaining unauthorised access to Internet accounts on behalf of his clients. We suspect that the targeted accounts belonged to individuals and corporate entities,” said the officer.

Since the input came from the FBI, the investigators suspect that Amit might have accessed some “sensitive” Internet accounts.

Based on the findings, the agency registered two cases against Amit and unknown persons on charges of identity theft, criminal conspiracy and unauthorised break-in of Internet accounts under the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act.

“The websites operated by the accused offered access to email accounts for $250-$500, which we suspect would be paid through Western Union or online money transfer website PayPal. On receipt of the order, the accused would hack into the email accounts concerned and send proof of it to the customers who would then make payments to get passwords and other particulars of the victims,” the officer said.

Following Amit’s arrest, the agency on Friday carried out searches at two places in Mumbai and on the premises of one of his customers at Ghaziabad.

Amit was earlier arrested in August 2003, when he an engineering student, after he allegedly cheated CC Avenue, a credit card processing company, of Rs. 9 lakh. The accused, son of a colonel of Lucknow, offered web designing services through a website. From 2002, he had allegedly made several transactions on the same website using accounts of various credit cards managed by the firm, showing himself as both the buyer and the seller.

The accused vanished from the scene, but landed in the police net when he again attempted to cheat the same company.

“The accused was produced in a Pune court, which has granted us his transit remand. He is being brought to the capital for further interrogation. While his computers have been seized, we will also probe the role of his customers,” said the officer.

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