Malad IRS scam: New arrests reveal Chinese connection

Updated: 18 November, 2017 09:32 IST | Suraj Ojha | Mumbai

The police learnt how gift cards from victims were used on online app platform by Chinese operative to milk profits for themselves and their Indian counterparts; two more arrested from Rajkot

The police have found a Chinese connection in the online IRS racket that was being operated from a fake call centre in Malad, which was busted earlier this month. Two more people have been arrested from Rajkot, Gujarat, in connection with the case, said sources.

Representation pic
Representation pic

They also revealed that these arrested accused were the ones in contact with the operatives in China. The duo has been identified as Kalapi Bhagat, 42 and Nirmal Bhayani alias Lala bhai, 36. According to sources from the crime branch, both of them worked as mediators between the Chinese operative and another Mumbai-based mediator who used to collect gift card numbers from the fake call centre. Currently, a total of 20 accused have been arrested in the case.

mid-day had reported how the call centre would cheat American citizens by posing as officers from US's Internal Revenue Services (IRS) and ask them to buy online gift cards to escape legal action.

Small chain
While looking through the Malad call centre, cops found a file named 'Doris 9' in a laptop, which had 31 gift card numbers, each worth $50. An officer said, "It's a small chain between the Chinese and people at the call centre. Two middlemen worked in that chain - one in Mumbai and the other in Rajkot."

So here's how the operatives made money. Once the call centre staffers successfully collected gift card numbers from people they'd duped, they would send it to one Abhishek Dube, the Mumbai middleman, who later passed it on Bhagat and Bhayani, who then forwarded it to their Chinese counterpart. Later, the Chinese man gave them 70 per cent of the amount of the gift card, from which the middlemen each took a five per cent cut and transferred the remaining 60 per cent into the call centre's account.

Wider net
The Chinese involved in the racket cast a much wider net. Crime branch sources revealed the Chinese operative generated a game or application, which was sold on iTunes platform. Whoever wants to buy the application first has to get a gift card, after which s/he gets a pin. The customer then enters the pin for payment. Following this, iTunes takes a 15 per cent cut of the total sale for using their platform, while the other 85 per cent is deposited in the app owner's account. This is a standard and legal process.

However in this case, there was an illegal twist, but on the Chinese operative's side. The Chinese app owner had joined forces with the fake call centre guys. Once the gift card number reached China, the middlemen bought their own application, kept 15 per cent from the 85 per cent cut and sent the remaining 70 per cent to India. After the interrogation of the middlemen, the crime branch got to know they've been collecting the amount from several call centres active in different part of Mumbai and nearby areas. But following the Malad raid, the other call centres have gone underground.

First Published: 18 November, 2017 08:35 IST

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