KOCHI: The arrest of a 33-year-old businessman from Bengaluru, for siphoning off over Rs 250 crore by offering online part-time jobs, has exposed a major Chinese network of cyber fraudsters. Ernakulam Rural cyber police, who arrested Manoj, of Swagath Layout, Vidyaranyapura, Bengaluru, believe he is just a link in the chain of swindlers who are cheating lakhs of Indians by offering part-time jobs via Telegram.
Ernakulam Rural police chief Vaibhav Saxena spearheaded the investigation after two people from North Paravur lost Rs 7 lakh and Rs 11 lakh after taking up online part-time jobs. They were given the task of ‘liking’ YouTube videos. The accused won their trust with timely payouts for their efforts. Later, the victims were asked to make small investments, which they were made to believe would be repaid with interest: a Rs 1,000 investment would generate a Rs 1,250 return.
“The swindlers were merely laying the bait. Victims started investing larger amounts for higher returns. Withdrawals stopped when an investment touched Rs 30,000. Believing the money would be repaid in bulk, victims continued to plough in larger amounts by borrowing money or taking gold loans. They approached police when the payouts dried up,” an officer said.
Cops following the money trail found that the transactions were linked to nearly 40 current accounts under various names in different states. They got in touch with these account holders. The investigation exposed the role of Manoj. “Manoj is an MBA graduate. He runs a business supplying packaging to a food delivery app. He ventured into cyber fraud in April this year. To avoid being tracked, he even stopped using smartphones. Our investigation of the person handling some of the accounts led us to Bengaluru. We tracked Manoj and gathered information about places he frequents. He was apprehended from one such spot,” an officer said.
Manoj confessed that his criminal journey began after he befriended Dubai-based Kevin and Jaison. Manoj’s modus operandi involved routing the money collected from victims to the current accounts before transferring it to kingpins abroad.
“Our investigation revealed that Kevin and Jaison are fake identities. From their accounts, we are certain that they are Chinese nationals. Although they use Dubai phone numbers, we believe the entire operation is being directed from China. The money reaching the current accounts managed by Manoj is converted into cryptocurrency and transferred to the accused in China. Every day these bank accounts register over 1,000 transactions. From our preliminary analysis, we estimate that around Rs 250 crore passed through the accounts managed by Manoj alone. He received around Rs 2-3 crore,” the officer said.
43 Online job fraud
According to the police, there were 43 cases of online job fraud reported with Ernakulam Rural police this year with the majority of them taking place since May. Police suspect this to be the handiwork of the same network and are looking at all possibilities to nail down the kingpins