Canada's federal police announced Friday the arrests of a couple linked to an overseas telephone scam in which crooks posing as tax officials bilked C$16.8 million (approx. Rs 90.7 crore) from Canadians.
The shakedown, operating out of India since 2014, involved callers identifying themselves as Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) officials, and later as police or other officials, and intimidating victims into paying fines or taxes that they didn't owe to the government.
The scam which is also known as CRA scam has been targeting the Canadian public since 2014, and despite a number of police raids on illegal call centres in India, it continued to victimise Canadians.
Some lost their life savings while few others borrowed to pay the fraudsters, according to local reports.
The CRA scam alone has resulted in reported losses of more than C$17.2 million in Canada between 2014 and 2019, Canadian media house quoted Inspector Jim Ogden of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Gurinderpreet Dhaliwal, 37, and Inderpreet Dhaliwal, 36, were arrested in a Toronto suburb and charged with fraud and money-laundering, while a Canada-wide arrest warrant has been issued for Shantanu Manik, 26 years of age who is believed to be in India.
Police said the swindle generated widespread fear as scammers threatened victims with arrest, and made Canadians wary when actual government officials attempted legitimate contact.
"We have disrupted the... flow of money from Canada to India which will have a big impact on the operation and the bottom line of the scammers," Inspector Jim Ogden of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told a news conference.
"The damage caused by the scam goes beyond the money Canadians have lost," Canadian news organisation National Post quoted Ogden saying
“The scam has caused fear due to the threat of arrest by the fraudsters who claim to be from various Canadian government agencies,” Ogden said.
“This has led to Canadians becoming wary or suspicious even when the CRA is attempting legitimate contact.”
Authorities in India also shut down 39 illegal call centers in Noida and New Delhi as part of a joint investigation, he said.
(With inputs from AFP)