Bengaluru, June 13 | Karnataka’s cybercrime police have busted a Rs 290-crore hawala (money laundering) scam, operated in the name of ‘Powerbank’ investment and arrested nine persons, including two Chinese and two Tibetans, an official of the state’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) said on Sunday.
“The 9 accused, including 2 Chinese, 2 Tibetans and 5 directors of shell companies involved in the hawala scam were arrested under section 420 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) and section 66 of the IT Act for cheating several investors,” said CID cybercrime’s Superintendent of Police M.D. Sharath here.
During the investigation, the cybercrime sleuths found that a Kerala-based businessman (Anas Ahmed) was the mastermind behind the scam, operating with Chinese hawala operators in money laundering.
“Ahmed, who is still at large, married a Chinese woman when he was in China for studies and established links with Chinese hawala operators. He opened shell companies to route the laundered money,” said Sharath in a statement.
The case was registered on a complaint by Razor Pay Software Ltd, a payment solutions firm in this tech city, which alleged that the accused had availed its solutions by claiming that they were in gaming, social and e-commerce business.
“The accused defrauded Razor by misusing its solutions to deviate from their stated business and routed transactions to collect payments from investors in the name of ‘Powerbank’ an application (app) in Google Playstore,” said Sharath.
Razon came to know from investors, who invested in the Powerbank app to earn some percentage of interest daily and weekly on their investment, as promised.
“The accused neither paid the interest nor returned the principal amount to the investors and laundered the money through the hawala route outside the country,” said Sharath.
Ahmed, who hosted the online Rummy application camouflaged and converted it into Powerbank app and lured investors with good returns.
“An unusual spike was seen in user investments on the day Ahmed announced much higher returns. As per his plan, the apps from Google Playstore and other websites were removed and he absconded,” said Sharath.
The cybercrime wing froze Ahmed’s bank accounts which had Rs 290 crore since he began the scam in November 2020.
“We have also observed that the Chinese handlers are in possession of a huge number of shell companies and bank accounts. Lured by the offer of these handlers, many gullible Indians and Tibetans fell in their trap to open shell companies and open bank accounts for them,” added Sharath.