Twenty-two people have been arrested from across the country for their involvement in a Rs 500-crore instant loan-cum-extortion racket that was operated by Chinese nationals. The racket involved more than 100 applications that were used to obtain access to sensitive information of the user which was then uploaded to servers based in China and Hong Kong, a senior police officer said.
The arrests were made by the Delhi Police after an analysis of the gang operation that lasted over two months. The network was spread across Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and other states, police officials said.
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The network consisted of over 100 malicious apps — which have now been blocked — being used to siphon off crores in in different states and stealing people’s data. Chinese entities have been found directly involved, Deputy Commissioner of Police (IFSO) KPS Malhotra said.
Based out of Lucknow
According to the police, the gang based out of a call centre in Lucknow used the applications to provide small amounts of loan. Once the user downloaded the applications and granted permissions to the app, they would get the loan money credited to their account within minutes, the police said.
According to police, these apps attracted users to take loan at lower interest rates and even promised a 90-day interest- free period. However, after giving the loan amount, they started charging a much higher interest rate on a per day basis.
“At the time of downloading the app, it asked for permission to capture the contact list, photo gallery and other personal data of the phone of the loan seeker. As soon as the permission was granted by the loan seeker, all his/her data got transferred to Chinese servers,” DCP Malhotra said.
The gang would then call the users from different numbers that were procured on fake IDs, and extort money threatening that their morphed nude pictures would be uploaded on the internet if they failed to heed to the demand, DCP Malhotra said.
After complete recovery of the money along with interest, the gang used to extort more money from the people and sent it to China. Due to social fear and stigma, the users used to pay the money, which was later sent to China through hawala or after purchasing cryptocurrencies, the police official said.
The gang reportedly used multiple accounts and each of the accounts received more than Rs 1 crore per day.
The apps that have been identified include Cash Port, Rupee Way, Loan Cube, Wow Rupee, Smart Wallet, Giant Wallet, Hi Rupee, Swift Rupee, Walletwin, Fishclub, Yeahcash, Im Loan, Growtree, Magic Balance, Yocash, Fortune Tree, Supercoin, Red Magic.
At least 51 mobile phones, 25 hard disks, nine laptops, 19 debit cards/credit cards and three cars and Rs 4 lakh cash were seized by the police.
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The arrested members have reportedly told the police that the racket was operated at the behest of Chinese nationals. The police have identified few Chinese nationals and efforts are being made to trace and arrest them.
After the crackdown, the operatives have been shifting their recovery call centres to Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. So far, more than Rs 500 crore has been siphoned off by the Chinese nationals, the police added.