Probe into loan recovery agents takes cops to Delhi, China and Kerala
Mumbai A promising investigation into a loan app scam by the Andheri Government Railway Pollice (GRP), which took the trail from Delhi to China and then back to Kerela, has come to a standstill after the investigators found that the man owning the firm, that has a capital of ₹130 crore, is actually a differently-abled person with assets which consists of only four sheep
Mumbai A promising investigation into a loan app scam by the Andheri Government Railway Pollice (GRP), which took the trail from Delhi to China and then back to Kerela, has come to a standstill after the investigators found that the man owning the firm, that has a capital of ₹130 crore, is actually a differently-abled person with assets which consists of only four sheep.
In March, a woman received a threatening message from a loan recovery agent. Her cousin was even sent her morphed image. Andheri GRP had registered the case and tracked down the 19-year-old agent from Karnataka. After his arrest, the GRP formed a special team to unearth the larger loan app racket.
Based on the 19-year-old’s leads, the GRP officials arrested Sartaj Alam, a 45-year-old garments trader from Delhi, and his son, Shoeb Alam, 25. Sartaj claimed to be drawing a “salary” of ₹12,000 per day.
After Sartaj was caught, the investigation blew wide open as the police discovered a network of frauds, which runs into several crores. Sartaj revealed the name of Sangram and Lisa, who he had never met but was in four Telegram groups which had 156 members. The group members were all working and staying in Honzo city in China at some point and were also familiar with Mandarin.
Sartaj would get two new SIM cards each month through different couriers and instructions on Telegram in Mandarin.
Dattatreya Nikam, a senior police inspector of Andheri GRP, said, “The SIM cards were linked to an account of a shell company named Ola Zukatu which had funds of ₹130 crores transferred from China.” Sartaj was in-charge of disbursing the amount to targets with the help of individuals from different parts of the country who were tasked with creating bogus loan app companies, existing only on paper and having no offices or employees. These individuals took the help of chartered accountants and company secretaries for the job and transfer the petty loan amounts to needy individuals.
Three such individuals, Goraksh Rakh, Pushkar Panse and Rakesh S have been arrested from Pune by the Andheri GRP.
Sartaj told the police that in the past 18 months, he has received 40 SIM cards and has transferred ₹1000 crore to China as profit after blackmailing and extorting money through agents. “Sartaj knew he would get caught and wanted to earn as much he can in a short period of time,” said Nikam.
The scam operated like a multinational company. The money was pumped in through China, agents who contacted the targets are in India. Sartaj said that another wing of the company which is involved in the recovery of loan amounts and resorts to making threatening calls is based in Bangladesh, while the wing which morphs photographs of hapless victims is based in Nepal.
While tracking the bank account of the shell company Ola Zukatu and its owner, a team of officers reached Kerala and tracked down the owner identified as Shad Mohammed. “Mohammed is 45-year-old and physically disabled and owns four sheep through which he gets his income. The officers questioned him and learnt he was unaware of the company being run under his name and documents,” said Nikam.
Since the investigation in this direction came to a standstill, the police looked into the money trail to figure out the whereabouts of Sangram. Last week, the GRP’s investigation had to be put on hold as the company approached by the police to conduct the forensic audit of the money trail demanded ₹10 lakh for doing the job, which the GRP was not willing to pay.
“The investigation has hit a roadblock. However, we are trying to find out how many more supervisors like Sartaj were working for Sangram,” said Nikam.