During the second week of September this year, the Bengaluru cybercrime police arrested Manoj Sreenivas, the MBA graduate, Phanindra K, the software engineer, and four others on a complaint lodged by a 26-year-old woman, who fell victim to a scam involving an investment of Rs 8.5 lakh.
Updated Oct 18, 2023 | 08:05 PM IST
Bengaluru Cybercrime Saga (Image: Unsplash))
Bengaluru: In a shocking revelation, Bengaluru Cyber Crime police uncovered a sprawling cybercrime operation that had defrauded thousands of people across India, siphoning off a staggering Rs 854 crore within just two years. In a single-bedroom house in Yelahanka on the northern fringe of Bengaluru, a 33-year-old MBA graduate and a 36-year-old software engineer allegedly set up a nameless private enterprise two years ago. Two youths hired as employees lived in the house and were tasked with keeping eight mobile phones active – day and night.
During the second week of September this year, the Bengaluru cybercrime police arrested Manoj Sreenivas, the MBA graduate, Phanindra K, the software engineer, and four others on a complaint lodged by a 26-year-old woman, who fell victim to a scam involving an investment of Rs 8.5 lakh. She was lured through an app and subsequently a WhatsApp group, prompting the cybercrime police to investigate.
The inquiry revealed that the house rented by Sreenivas and Phanindra allegedly functioned as a hub for a widespread fraudulent network operating across India. Thousands of individuals have reportedly been cheated, drawn in through social media to invest small amounts in exchange for promised high returns.
According to the investigations by the cyber crime police into the network in Bengaluru, it has been revealed that as much as Rs 854 crore moved rapidly through 84 bank accounts in the last two years. When the police traced these accounts and froze them in September, only Rs 5 crore remained.
When the cyber crime police went a step further and looked on the National Cyber Crime Portal, they found 5,013 cases across India where the same set of accounts had been used by cyber criminals. There were 17 cases from Bengaluru itself out of 487 reported from Karnataka. Police also found that 719 cases had been reported from Telangana, 642 from Gujarat, and 505 from Uttar Pradesh.
Money laundering route in Bengaluru cyber fraud
Investigations have found that Rs 854 crore that travelled through the 84 accounts was moved to gaming apps, cryptocurrency like USDT, online casinos and payment gateways, to be encashed by the fraud’s main operators, who are suspected to based in Dubai and whom the Bengaluru layer of operators never met physically.
Investigations are underway to know whether the Dubai-based operators, who set up the network by communicating only through social media to the Bengaluru layer, are linked to Chinese operatives.
“In the Bengaluru case, no links to China operators or any terror financing has been found. Investigations are still underway to find the key operatives,” Bengaluru police commissioner B Dayananda said on September 30.
“Indian operators received a commission of one to three percent on every transaction they facilitated. They opened local bank accounts without going through the KYC process,” Bengaluru cyber crime official Haziresh Tilledar said.
Police suspect the motive behind keeping eight mobile phones constantly active was to facilitate fund transfers between fake bank accounts and mule accounts, and to siphon the money out through crypto currency, gaming apps and online casinos.
“The online casinos and gaming apps seem to be a key source of money laundering as there are no records of winnings. One of the main accused was planning on starting his own gaming app to launder his own earnings from the fraud,” a Bengaluru police official said.
“The laundered money goes through international banks and is shown as investments in various foreign companies,” Bengaluru police stated.