Hawala racket busted; 4 foreign nationals among 10 arrested

Cybercrime officials with the Criminal Investigation Department on Saturday busted a ₹290 crore money-laundering scam linked to a hawala racket. Ten people — including two from China and two from Tibet — have been arrested. However, the kingpin and prime accused, Anas Ahmed, who hails from Kerala but resides in Bengaluru, has yet to be arrested.

According to M.D. Sharath, Superintendent of Police (cybercrime), who led the probe, Ahmed offered several financial schemes online and on mobile apps promising clients high returns on investments.

Initially, the investors were paid by the accused promptly, but this was temporary. “The accused would wind up the business after collecting huge amounts of money from investors,” said Mr. Sharath.

Shell companies

According to the police, the accused opened shell companies to route the funds. These were allegedly being managed by people from China who functioned as handlers. According to the CID, the accused convinced many people to open bank accounts but to give them access, they used these accounts as well for fraudulent financial dealings, said the CID.

The scam came to light following a complaint from a well-known payment gateway company after it noticed that the accused were using its services by falsely claiming that they were running business in a range of categories from gaming to e-commerce.

Payment gateway

“However, they defrauded the company by deviating from their original category of business in which they had registered. The accused started routing their transactions to collect payments via the gateway from an unregistered business, ‘Power Bank’, which has an app on Google Play Store,” said a police official.

Through customer complaints, the complainant company got to know that public invested a certain amount in this ‘Power Bank’ app to earn some percentage of daily and weekly interest. “The accused, after accepting the invested amount, defaulted on payments and withheld the principal amount,” the official added. Once a substantial amount of money was collected, they would shut it down.

The kingpin

Based on the complaint, the cybercrime police arrested 10 persons, including two Chinese and two Tibetan nationals, and six persons from various parts of the country, including Delhi, Surat and Bengaluru.

During the course of investigation, they found that Ahmed, a Kerala-based businessman was the main person. “He studied medicine in China and married a Chinese national. He also hosted an online rummy application.

“After going through the assets and bank accounts of the accused, it was also noted during investigation that there was a huge spike in the opening of shell companies since November 2020. We have also observed that the Chinese handlers are in possession of a number of shell companies and bank accounts. The probe is ongoing,” said a police official.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 2:28:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/hawala-racket-busted-4-foreign-nationals-among-10-arrested/article34800175.ece

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