Nigerians fleecing people after luring them on the Internet with huge commissions on fraudulent money transfers, now appear to have spread their base in India by taking the help of Indian accomplices.
An investigation carried out by this correspondent into one such case has revealed that people operating from the US, Turkey, Nigeria and other countries are running the racket and fleecing the people in India. The new twist to the old strategy is that they are now using the bank accounts of their Indian accomplices for receiving payments from their victims.
Divya Gupta, a 22-year-old girl of Gurgaon, had got a Nigerian arrested last month for demanding US $5,000 for transferring US $7.7 million from Nigeria to India and the case was supposed to be solved. But it turns out that the arrested man was just an agent.
Divya continues to receive phone calls and e-mails from the kingpin, Mark Steven, from Nigeria. Unaware of the arrest of his associate, he is now demanding $3,500 more, as he claimed, the shipment of two boxes containing $7.7 million that was shipped to India in the name of the girl had been videographed by a news channel's representatives who were demanding money in lieu of the video clip.
He has also sent her a video clip showing cash spread out on the tarmac.
Steven had first contacted Divya on her e-mail, offering to transfer $7.7 million into her account. "He had said that he wanted to transfer the money from Nigeria to India and was looking for a reliable account holder. He had offered 20 per cent commission on the amount," said Divya.
The next step was to convince the "victim" that the deal was real. "He sent me airway bills and other documents to prove that he had already shipped the cash in two trunk boxes. One day, he demanded $5,000, saying he required it to clear the shipment from the cargo as he was short of money. Total cost of clearance, he said, was $15,000," said Divya.
The girl was asked to give the money to Steven's agent N William Ugwu, whom she got arrested. To Steven, however, she told that she had paid the amount and the agent, it seemed, had deserted him.
"Steven, who has been calling me from Nigeria from phone number +234 1 851 5054 had earlier asked me deposit $5,000 in SBI account number 30053181344. He has now asked me to deposit $3,500 more in another account number of ICICI Bank (015801524229)," Divya told the Hindustan Times.
This time she was asked to contact another agent Johnson Fernandes on mobile number 9867929393. This number was found to originate from Mumbai.
Sources in the SBI said that the account number 30053181344 was in the name of one Eunice Zimik, a girl of Mandulong village in Imphal. Another ICICI bank account number 015801524229 in a Mumbai branch is in the name of another girl Preeti Lacchi Rai.
The transaction record of the SBI account showed that a number of people were fleeced in this manner in the past two months. The moment victims deposited the money, it was withdrawn using ATM cards from unknown locations.
Divya alleges that Gurgaon police have closed the file of the arrested Nigerian by producing him as Mark Steven in the court.
When contacted by this correspondent, the Gurgaon SSP said, "We have already arrested Steven who was earlier telling his name as N William Ugwu. However, if the victim is still receiving calls from someone by the name of Mark Steven we will get the matter re-investigated."
To convince the girl on the deal, the Nigerian had sent her forged airway bills, invoice, power of attorney, certificate of deposit and certificate of fund origin through e-mail.
The arrested Nigerian was living in Munirka in south Delhi illegally. He was booked under various sections of the IPC pertaining to cheating and forgery, and also under Section 3/4 of the Foreigners Act as he failed to produce documents pertaining to his nationality.
Rajesh Kumar a senior officer of Anti-Cyber Crime Cell said that many people had been fooled by such e-mails and it is difficult to catch the people sitting abroad," he added.