The Enforcement Directorate has registered a money laundering case against groups operating from Jamtara in Jharkhand, said to be one of the biggest hubs of cyber crime in the country. Those running the racket are alleged to have cheated thousands of people across the country.
The agency’s main focus is on the cyber offences committed allegedly by a group led by Santosh Yadav, Jugal Mondal and Pradeep Kumar Mondal. While the police have lodged FIRs against the masterminds, the Directorate aims to attach the proceeds of crime under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
An FIR registered against Mr. Jugal Mondal and his five associates at the Narayanpur police station in Jamtara alleges that he “is an active cyber criminal and has no legitimate source of income”. The group cheat people through a modus operandi commonly known as “vishing” or voice “phishing”.
Armed with laptops and smartphones, the criminals virtually set up call centres. Usually posing as bank representatives, they make cold calls to unsuspecting account holders and manage to extract personal details from them on various pretexts, sometimes even promising financial rewards.
The information is used to access the accounts for illegal online transfer of money. The cheaters also often use Voice over IP (VoIP) to make calls, which makes it difficult for the police to either monitor or trace them.
The suspects are said to have learnt the tricks of the trade while working in mobile phone shops and call-centres across the country. The criminals use e-wallets with money illegally withdrawn from accounts transferred to these e-wallets and then used for making online purchases and payments. E-wallets are opened using mobile phone numbers procured on the basis of fake or fraudulently arranged identification papers.
The vast amounts obtained as a result of cyber crime in rural and remote Jamtara has seen a spurt in palatial houses and high end vehicles in the area. Accused Mondal has three houses worth over ₹85 lakh apart from an SUV and three bikes. It is alleged that Yadav has amassed illegal wealth of over ₹50 lakh in the past five years.
All such accused have been booked under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the relevant provisions of the Information Technology Act. While the local police have arrested more than 100 such offenders and even set up a cyber crime division for a constant watch on suspects, investigating agencies from 22 States are also on the lookout for them. In Madhya Pradesh’s Bhilai itself, more than 700 people have been cheated by Jamtara-based gangs.