China-linked loan app implicated in extortion, multi-crore fraud busted in Delhi, 8 arrested
The Delhi Police’s Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit has busted a gang allegedly involved in illegal lending, extortion and harassment of borrowers, in the nation’s capital.
A total of eight people have been arrested for allegedly extorting money from people using their morphed photos obtained through a wiretapping app.
According to the Delhi Police, the app in question, “Cash Advance” (Danakredit), which was available for download from Play Store, offered short-term loans to users.
Like similar cases in southern India last year, the app targeted people who were looking for a quick loan to meet their urgent needs.
Borrowers were forced to install the app on their phones, which the crooks then used to access their contact list, gallery and other personal data.
The gang then used stolen personal data, including altered photos, to threaten their victims with large sums of money.
How the gang was exposed
The scam came to light when a Delhi-based woman victimized by the app filed a complaint with the police alleging that she was being harassed by a few people for money.
The woman in her complaint said that she took out a loan from the Cash Advance app and repaid the money. But afterward, she started getting money calls from some people, who used abusive language with her and even sent her made-up photos to her family and friends.
According to police, the woman alleged that one of the defendants used the photo of a senior IPS officer for his WhatsApp profile.
Based on the woman’s complaint, a case was registered and the money trail of the alleged transaction was discovered.
What investigators found
The money was discovered to be transferred to a checking account opened in the name of “Balaji Technology”, a motorcycle repair shop owned by a certain Rohit Kumar, a senior police officer said.
Police discovered that the account was used to funnel around Rs 8.45 crore in just 15 days to other accounts.
In all, police identified 25 other such accounts and froze them, he said.
Subsequent raids were carried out on March 13 in Pitampura and Rohini from where police arrested four people involved in the scam, Deputy Commissioner of Police (IFSO) KPS Malhotra said.
The defendants have been identified as Rohit Kumar, Vividh Kumar, Puneet and Manish. Their cell phones and other devices used in the crime were also recovered.
Later two other defendants, a man named Puneet Kumar and a woman, who remains unidentified, were arrested, along with a Krishna, who was identified as the mastermind of the whole operation, he said. .
Krishna was arrested in Jodhpur in Rajasthan on March 14, police said.
Krishna, the mastermind in India, provided all the bank accounts to a Chinese national. It was revealed that all the extortion money was sent to China via cryptocurrency by him.
“The crypto accounts of three Chinese nationals have been identified,” the officer said.
Later, the police arrested another defendant, Sumit, from Gurugram.
Sumit performed the operation to make WhatsApp calls through a number obtained using fake documents.
When questioned, he led the police to another defendant, Kartik Panchal, whom he identified as the team leader of the operation.
Panchal was also arrested, police said.
“We discovered that Panchal led a team of callers who used to call loan applicants. It was also discovered that the defendant transformed and edited photos of women and sent them to their contacts to extort them money,” Malhotra said.
This is not a new phenomenon
Unregistered Chinese loan applications had been under the scanner in India since 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They had targeted young people who had lost their income due to the confinements.
Since it is an instant approval, without any paperwork or other usual formalities, people who are in urgent need of cash will fall for it.
After a flood of complaints, mostly from Telangana, and a few reported deaths due to harassment, Google cracked down on these apps and banned them from the Play Store.
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