In a complex case of cyber fraud, wherein a Chinese national was found to have duped 1,200 people in north Gujarat to the tune of Rs 1,400 crore, the police have found links in Dubai that involves two Indians who reportedly played a pivotal role in introducing the app to the people.
The Chinese national, identified as Woo Uyanbe of Shenzhen region in that country, had infiltrated into India, teamed up with Indian collaborators and created a football betting app that lured people into the trap. He allegedly ran the scam in Patan and Banaskantha.
The Gujarat Crime Branch disclosed that two Dubai-based individuals, Lakhan Thakkar and Nayan Shah, were instrumental in making Woo’s ploy a success. They presented the fraudulent scheme as an “investment opportunity” through a score-predicting app named ‘Dani-Data’ in May 2022.
Law enforcement officials have issued Look Out Circulars (LOC) against Thakkar and Shah. Authorities warn that if they evade capture, Red Corner Notices (RCN) will be issued against them.
The charges filed against the accused include sections 465, 468, and 471 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), given the potential magnitude of the scam involving thousands of crores.
Sources said, in the scam the victims were first promised attractive returns of 0.75 per cent on their investments. Once substantial amounts were invested, the app abruptly shut down, leaving victims empty-handed.
The fraudulent app was designed to predict scores of football matches played in Europe. The subscribers were assigned unique User IDs to facilitate their investment. As substantial sums flowed in, the main culprits, Thakkar and Shah, abruptly shuttered the app. Authorities suspect these two individuals possess a vast network spread across Europe.
During their probe, the Gujarat Crime Branch identified approximately 100 bank accounts linked to the suspects within the state, including 20 in Ahmedabad. The police discovered that illicit funds were channelled from India to Dubai and European countries through hawala networks, potentially raising concerns of terror funding.
Numerous fake bank accounts associated with fictitious companies have been uncovered. A certain ‘Panther Trading Company’ account alone reflects transactions amounting to Rs 900 crore. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate, and GST Department are collaborating in the comprehensive investigation.
“During our investigation, we learnt that the Chinese national spent time in India between 2020 and 2022, specifically in Patan and Banaskantha. He strategically engaged with local residents, enticing them with promises of wealth. Collaborating with associates in Gujarat, they launched the Dani Data app in May 2022, enticing bets and pledging substantial returns,” shared a senior police officer.
Uyanbe’s elaborate scheme raked in a staggering average of Rs 200 crore daily, targeting individuals aged 15 to 75 primarily through football games. The fraudulent app operated for nine days before suddenly becoming non-functional, prompting victims to realise the loss of their invested funds.
However, by the time the Gujarat Police took action in August 2022, filing an FIR for cheating and violations under the Information Technology Act, the main culprits had managed to flee India. Despite intense efforts, the CID (crime) cyber cell officers struggled to amass sufficient evidence against Uyanbe, impeding the extradition process.
Sources say the mastermind is still operational, managing his network from regions including Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Singapore, deploying multiple apps for digital fraud.
Earlier this year, CID (crime) cyber cell officers submitted a charge sheet related to the fraudulent app. Although a look out circular has been issued against Uyanbe, who reportedly left the country and is believed to be in China, efforts to bring him to justice continue.
Nine arrests have been made so far, including Manoj Kumar Patel, Vrushab Makwana, and Vijaykumar Jadan Ram, who were partners in the New Delhi-based TK Color Pvt Ltd in which Uyanbe held a directorial position.