With mobile app kingpin escaping at last moment, Nepal agencies explain how the entire racket could be a major geopolitical attack on India by the Red Dragon
The Nepal Cyber Bureau office in Kathmandu
A Chinese national, who has emerged as the brain behind the loan app racket and is wanted by the Mumbai and Odisha police, was in Nepal on July 25. Liu Yi escaped from the country after the police busted an illegal call centre in Rupandehi district for extorting money from Indian borrowers. Sources in Nepal police said they are worried about the recent trend of illegal activities targeting Indians being run from their soil.
Nepal police officers confirmed the presence of Liu Yi in their country after mid-day shared his photograph with them. Yi faces multiple look out circulars issued by the Mumbai cyber cell and Bhubaneswar police and his role is being probed in a money laundering case by the Enforcement Directorate.
Also read: Loan app scam: Inside Nepal call centre used to harass Indian borrowers
Liu Yi faces multiple lookout circulars in India
In a recent crackdown, triggered by a series of mid-day reports, the Nepal police have raided two illegal call centres in Kathmandu and one in Butwal city of Rupandehi district and arrested 190 people, including five Chinese nationals and two Indians, for extracting money from Indian borrowers of instant loan apps.
The Nepal police’s special branch and Cyber Bureau that are trying to extract data from the laptops, mobiles and PCs seized from the call centres have also ascertained that Yi is a big fish. Until recently they were not aware of his activities, said sources.
As per the Economic Offences Wing of the Bhubaneswar police, Yi started his illegal business in India from Bangalore in 2019. “His parent company was Jianbing Technology in Hangzhou, China. He is the director of Omelette Technology Private Limited but indirectly controls/owns following other companies,” the Bhubaneswar police had said in a press release last month.
The Chinese national who was arrested following a raid at a call centre at Tinkune in Kathmandu
The police have found that Yi’s other companies like Yellow Tune Technologies Private Limited, Mudmate Technologies Private Limited, Pinkleaf Aryan Communications Private Limited, Techlite Development Private Limited, URELA Technologies Private Limited, Latterfun Technologies Private Limited and IWT India Ocean Trading are also involved in the racket. Yi is being assisted by a few more Chinese nationals, the Odisha police said. Mumbai cyber cell has also uncovered similar details tied to Yi.
Growing Chinese presence
Sources said alarm bells are ringing in Nepal due to the growing presence of Chinese nationals in the Himalayan nation and their role in illegal activities targeting India. In the past seven years, Nepal has deported over 1,500 Chinese nationals to their home country over their alleged involvement in unlawful activities.
In December 2019, Nepal authorities exposed an illegal call centre linked to unscrupulous mobile loan applications and arrested 120 Chinese nationals. A source said China sent a chartered plane to bring its citizens back. The next year, 233 Chinese nationals were deported of which 48 had overstayed in Nepal.
The Cyber Bureau of Nepal in Kathmandu. The agency is extracting data from the devices seized by Nepal cops
Between 2015 and 2019, the number of Chinese nationals visiting Nepal went up by 153 per cent, as per data from Nepal’s department of immigration bureau. Sources said there has also been a growing trend of Chinese people arriving in Nepal on business visas. As per official figures quoted by local media in Kathmandu, 1,579 Chinese nationals came on business visas in 2017, while 2,061 used the same visa route in 2018. It went up to 2,513 in 2019. The information officer of Nepal’s department of immigration bureau didn’t respond to calls and messages from mid-day.
Use of locals worry Nepal cops
Nepal intelligence agencies have raised serious concerns over the use of Nepalis by Chinese nationals to execute cybercrimes targeting Indians. Illegal call centres set up by Chinese people are luring locals with handsome pay and commissions to do the dirty job of extorting money from Indians through abusive calls and obscene photos.
“Our intelligence says that this setup of loan app call centres is somewhere a part of a larger conspiracy against India from Nepal or maybe they are trying to create a rift between India and Nepal as the countries share very good relations,” said a source.
Nepal authorities are probing potential terror funding from the huge amount extracted from Indian borrowers through the loan app. An officer from Kathmandu police told mid-day, “We have not ruled out anything in this case and the matter is being probed by the special branch and Cyber Bureau.”
Chinese population in Nepal
Rise in Chinese population in Nepal between 2015 and 2019