New Delhi: Delhi Police successfully busted one of the biggest money laundering scams, run by China-based entities, that duped around five lakh Indians of their “investment” and siphoned Rs 150 crore, in just two months. Two CAs, a Tibetan woman and eight others have been arrested so far in connection to this scam.
The scammers also stole sensitive data of over 5 lakh Indias through malicious “quick earning” apps running in the garb of an online multi-level marketing campaign, according to police commissioner S N Shrivastava.
Rs 11 crores of has been blocked in various bank accounts and payment gateways and Rs 97 lakh cash recovered from a Gurgaon-based CA who formed over 110 companies for Chinese fraudsters.
These apps offered lucrative returns on investment with claims to double the investment amount in 24-35 days. They also had schemes promising returns on an hourly and daily basis, and had investment options starting from Rs 300 to several lakhs. One of the apps, Power Bank, was recently trending at No 4 on Google Play Store, cops said.
Explaining the origin of the operation, DCP Anyesh Roy said the Cyber Crime Cell had taken notice of various posts on social media by people about two apps: Power Bank and EZPlan.
A team led by ACP Aditya Gautam carried out extensive technical analysis of apps at a lab. “EZPlan was available on the website www.ezplan.in. The Power Bank app projected itself as a Bengaluru-based Technology Start-Up involved in quick-charging technology, in a bid to deceive people. However, the server on which the app was hosted was found to be based in China,” the DCP said.
The malicious apps were also associated with several permissions such as ‘access to camera’, ‘read contact details’ and ‘read and write to external storage’.
In order to entice large number of people to invest more, a small pay out amounting to 5-10% of the invested money was given.
People, believing the “scheme” to be genuine, started investing more money as well as circulating and sharing the apps with their friends and relatives. Once someone had invested a large amount, their account was blocked by the apps, thus causing severe financial loss.
When asked how people got to know about these apps, the main Chinese handlers behind this massive scam used to randomly contact people over various apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram and hired interested persons as partners for procuring bogus bank accounts, creating shell companies, circulating and promoting the apps, transferring money, etc.
“A large number of such apps have been circulated by the fraudsters, including Power Bank, EZCoin, Sun Factory, Lightening Power Bank, etc. Some of these fraudulent, malicious Apps were also listed on Google Play Store,” said a senior officer.
As per Delhi police, most of these apps were promoted through YouTube channels, Telegram channels and WhatsApp chat links sent through bulk SMSes. Once the user registered on the apps, they were repeatedly induced to invest money to earn very high returns.