120 Keralites linked to cyber fraud rackets repatriated in past 18 months

Most of those repatriated had been working in call centres, collecting details of potential victims from social media and enticing them into investing in fraudulent schemes.
Representational image
Representational image

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As many as 120 Keralites suspected to be associated with financial cyber crimes were repatriated from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia over the past 18 months. Investigations had revealed that they were reportedly working with firms — including those operated by Chinese nationals — engaged in swindling money from Indians.

Most of those repatriated had been working in call centres, collecting details of potential victims from social media and enticing them into investing in fraudulent schemes.

It is learnt that many of the operatives were trapped by people associated with cyber crime syndicates in those countries, while some had taken up the job willingly.

Sources with Kerala police said many of them had expressed their desire to return home owing to the bad experiences they endured from their employers. Many had lost their travel documents, which were in their employers' possession. They were repatriated with the assistance of Indian embassies in the three countries, a source said.

In some other cases, the police put pressure on the families of those working for cybercrime syndicates, which prompted them to turn themselves in.

“There were people who were desperate to return. They had suffered at the hands of their employers who behaved like their captors. Some had lost their travel documents, mostly confiscated by employers,” the source said.

Some regretted their decision to join the syndicate as their salaries were pending, and returned home.

Back from Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam

Most people repatriated from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam worked in call centres. There, they were assigned to collect details of potential victims from social media and entice them into investing in fraudulent schemes.

Cyber fraud: Two cases registered against agents

Interestingly, some were released by their employers for their incompetence. “We found that some of them were discards. There is a case of a youngster from Poovar, who was taken to one of the three countries by his friend who was already working there. The youngster was assigned the job of handling social media platforms to identify targets.

However, he was not adept in using the platforms and the firm fired him,” the source added.

Though it’s not known whether the police have booked the returnees on any charges, sources said a decision has been taken at the top-level, which bars taking any legal action against first-time offenders.

“The decision is to take action against those who left for those countries to work with the syndicates after having returned home once. Since many of those repatriated themselves are victims, it is unlikely that they would face any legal action,” the source said.

The police have so far registered two cases against the agents who sent people to southeast Asian countries to join cyber financial crime syndicates. One case was registered in Kollam while the other was in Thrissur.

Cyber criminals had swindled about Rs 200 crore from the state last year following which the law enforcement agencies decided to deal with the menace with an iron first.

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