Intelligence agencies suspect underworld don Dawood Ibrahim is involved in the fraud
As confidence tricks go, this one is not novel. But the sheer amount of money involved and the trail leading to Pakistan - possibly to a certain Dawood Ibrahim - make it a thriller.
The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has alerted the government about fraudulent lottery schemes run across India by an organised syndicate in Pakistan, which employs Indian agents to suck huge amounts of money from the gullible.
It has been accessed the IB report which details and analyses the network in India. While trying to bring back black money stashed abroad, the IB, with inputs from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), has sent the scam report to the Home Ministry.
“There is a need for Enforcement Directorate to enforce the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in these matters. Financial Intelligence Unit should generate red-flag indicators for banks to identify and freeze such accounts instantly,” the report states, adding: “The problem is increasing in intensity....”
As per the cases investigated by the ED, Rs 4,193.39 crore is the estimated size of the scam so far. That figure can only go north.
Intelligence agencies suspect the involvement of underworld don and India’s most wanted fugitive Dawood Ibrahim, who runs his crime syndicate from Karachi, since he has a well-organised network in India to carry out illegal activities.
The D-Company plays a key role in hawala transactions, which are also used by Pakistan to fund its terror activities. The IB report explains the racket’s modus operandi and how it is heavily dependent on Indian agents.
The report states that while 1,175 Pakistani phone numbers are under scanner, 305 Indian phone numbers are in constant touch with these numbers.
The Pakistan-based racketeers get their contacts to call up Indian numbers randomly and convince the call receiver that s/he has won a lottery. The agents then ask the ‘winner’ to deposit in a specified Indian bank account “collection and processing charges” – from Rs 50, 000 to over Rs 1 lakh, depending upon the “winning amount” – to claim the windfall.
For this, the Indian agents ‘hire’ bank accounts and ATM cards from different individuals by paying them some amount in return. Once the money is deposited, the agents quickly withdraw the amount and send it through hawala to Pakistan via Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Investigations have revealed that some of the Indian agents, who have since been arrested for their involvement in such fraudulent lottery schemes, had withdrawn up to Rs 1.50 lakh per day from the bank accounts.
Intelligence agencies have pinned down 1,162 bank accounts in various Indian banks that have been used by the network operators. Sources say the nexus is well organised, and the callers generally succeed in convincing gullible people to pay up the processing fee.
The ‘hired’ banks accounts Dawood’s network is known to fund terror from hawala transactions. used in the racket are from across India, including Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Delhi, Gujarat, Odisha, Maharashtra, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh.
With 852 of its banks accounts used to trap the innocent ‘winners’, State Bank of India is the bank of choice for these fraudsters. Other nationalised banks — like Punjab National Bank, Central Bank, Canara Bank and Union Bank of India — and private bank accounts have also been used in the operation.
Based on inputs provided by IB and R&AW, the local police in Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) and Deoghar (Jharkhand) have arrested several local agents in the past one year.
But the investigation hits a dead end with the arrests since the main perpetrators of the scheme are sitting in Pakistan.