In a bid to smash an on-going loan-cum-extortion racket amounting to ₹ 500 crore, the Delhi police’s Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operation (IFSO) squad on August 20, 2022 carried out an operation, arresting nearly 22 people from across the country.
The gang is believed to be operated at the behest of Chinese nationals and the extorted money was being routed to that country through ‘hawala’ (an informal technique to transfer money operated through a network of brokers) and cryptocurrencies.
“Hundreds of complaints were lodged alleging that loans were being passed at higher interest rates, and after complete recovery of the money along with interest, the gang used to extort more money from the people using their morphed nude pictures,” according to the police officials.
The IFSO team took cognisance of these complaints, and during analysis, they found that over 100 such applications were involved in the racket.
In a statement released by a senior police official, it was found that all these apps were seeking malicious permissions from users. After obtaining access to the users’ contacts, chats, messages and images, the gang used to upload sensitive information to servers based in China and Hong Kong.
“The applications were developed in the garb of providing small amounts of loan. The user would download one of such applications, grant permissions to the app and the loan money used to get credited to his account within minutes,” the statement added.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police (IFSO), KPS Malhotra asserted, “The users began receiving calls from different numbers that were procured on fake IDs and were threatened that their morphed nude pictures would be uploaded on the internet if they failed to heed to the demand.”
“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 DCP said.
Taking advantage of the situation, these groups extorted higher amounts of money from the party. “A person who was in dire need of a small loan from ₹ 5,000 to 10,000 was being forced to pay several lakh rupees in return. This has led to many suicides as well,” Malhotra stated.
The gang used multiple accounts and each of the accounts received more than ₹ 1 crore per day.
“The network was spread across Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and other states. The 22 people, including two women, were nabbed from different parts of the country,” Malhotra said.
After the crackdown, the operatives have been shifting their recovery call centres to countries like Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. So far, an amount of over ₹ 500 crore has been siphoned off by the Chinese nationals.