City-based entrepreneur Jigar Shah may have been ecstatic upon receiving a letter out of the blue from late Muammar Gaddafi’s second wife Safia Farkash, requesting him to squirrel foreign funds of almost US$ 17.5 million (approximately Rs 85 crore) into his bank account to be invested in business in India.
However, according to officials of the Cyber Cell, this is the latest ruse employed by fraudsters to direct funds from overseas accounts and could easily land unwary victims in jail as co-accused.
The letter reached Shah’s office address and out of curiosity, he responded to an email address provided in the letter and sought details to complete the required formalities. He was instantly met with a barrage of emails containing telephone numbers and even repeated phone calls from a woman claiming to be Farkash. The woman repeatedly asked Shah to rescue her millions stashed in a security company in the UK along with a trunk of gold and precious stones. Shah soon realized that the deal was too good to be true and only wanted to know from where the woman had got his address and telephone number.
“I knew it is a scam, but I just wanted to know where she got my address and number from. I would receive about 20 mails and a couple of phone calls from a UK number asking for my bank account number. When I threatened to file a complaint with the police, they stopped,” Shah said.
The letter Shah received, a copy of which is in possession of MiD DAY, states that Farkash got hold of the entrepreneur’s address and telephone number from her late husband’s phone directory.
Also, over US$ 98 million has been taken away by Gaddafi’s relatives, and she only managed to get hold of US$ 17.5 million and a trunk of gold and precious stones, which was deposited with a security company in the UK. Since she and her daughter have sought refuge in Thailand, she wants to transfer the money to someone with the hope that it will be invested in business or in their company in India.
The letter further mentions that after transferring the money into the bank account, 20 per cent would go to the businessman’s company, 10 per cent would be set aside for any local expenses incurred during the course of transfer, 10 per cent to her family’s immediate needs and 60 per cent of the total funds would be for investment or starting up a business in partnership.
Like Jigar, several businessmen in the city and elsewhere have been receiving similar letters, emails and phone calls from a woman claiming to be Farkash, who is willing to share millions of dollars with anyone willing enough.
“The woman who called would ask for my name repeatedly and insist that I send an email to the operation manager informing him about the deposit belonging to her. She also asked me to send around 20 to 30 dollars to an address mentioned in the mail,” said Khozema Marya, a chartered accountant, who received similar calls and emails.
When the cyber cell authorities were contacted, they advised the general public to avoid responding to such mails or calls as fraudsters are using new techniques to lure people. Sagar Rahurkar, a cyber expert said, “One should not reply to these mails, but once they do there are possibilities of getting trapped.”
Assistant police inspector with Cyber Cell of the city police Sanjay Tungar, said, “This is called account management system, where fraudsters lure people by sending such mails and when the recipient is trapped, they deposit money into his account through which they route funds wherever they want. In such cases, the recipient can be the co-accused as he gives consent to use his account for transactions.”