The key accused, Naman Sukhadiya, who was arrested in Gujarat last week, had said that a UK-based handler provided them with the phone numbers of targets in exchange for a 40% cut per fraud. The police are in the process of issuing a lookout circular for the handler’s extradition and have encashed cryptocurrency worth ₹60 lakh.
Posing as officials from Her Majesty Revenue & Customs, the UK’s tax, payments and customs authority, the accused would call citizens of the United States of America and Canada through an internet-based calling application and tell them that their identity had been used to carry out tax or insurance frauds in their country and a criminal case was being filed against them.
When the victims invariably asked them for a way to nullify the charges, they were told to transfer some money to a UK-based account through hawala or cryptocurrency.
Additional deputy commissioner of police (investigation) Rupinder Kaur Bhatti said, “The accused were expanding their racket to other countries, including Australia. The cryptocurrency has been made case property after being granted special permission by a local court.”
It has been learnt that another key operator, Lakhan, was about to handover the call centre to Somal Sood, the owner of the building where the call centre was operating. Cops are also looking into Sood’s assets and business transactions.
The police will request the ministry of external affairs to reach out to countries where the fraudsters were active to get a written statement from victims.
Officials, requesting anonymity, say the Punjab Police was going to scale up the operation as they have found more such fake call centres operating in Mohali.
On June 30, the racket was busted after a raid on the call centre on Pakhowal Road. The building was owned by Sood, who allegedly has strong contacts with politicians and in the police department. Subsequently, raids were carried out in Mohali, Delhi and Gujarat to arrest all gang members. Initially, the call centre was operated by Gujarat-based techies.
Besides cryptocurrency, police have seized cash and property worth ₹1.52 crore from the gang, besides recovering ₹27 lakh hawala money and freezing ₹39.8 lakh in the accused’s bank accounts. Around 516g gold worth ₹17 lakh, 12 laptops, 26 mobile phones and two cars have been seized.