Thane call centre scam kingpin ‘Shaggy’ gave Audi, BMW to friends before fleeing
Sagar Thakkar alias Shaggy, the alleged mastermind of a Rs 1,900 crore call centre scam, desperately tried to offload high-end assets such as luxury cars and a posh bungalow hours after police raids on his businesses last year, sources have said.
Investigators probing the case told HT that Thakkar returned to Ahmedabad from Dubai on October 4, the same day police raided his call centres in Thane. Within hours, the 24-year-old had dispatched his Audi R8 to a friend’s farmhouse in Gurgaon and handed over the keys of the BMW to a close friend in Ahmedabad, before fleeing to Dubai the same night, source said.
Days later, his father Mukesh Thakkar allegedly sold the 5,000 square feet bungalow in Ahmedabad for Rs2.5 crore before going underground with his wife and daughter Reema, who are also accused of being involved in the scam.
“He loved to flaunt his status by zooming around in sleek cars and living in a fashionable mansion. He bought two expensive vehicles — an Audi R8 and a BMW SUV. He paid a second-hand car dealer in Delhi an advance of Rs10 lakh for the Rs25-lakh Audi, which was earlier owned by Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli. The BMW cost him Rs50 lakh,” sources said.
Thakkar was arrested by police last Friday after he arrived at the Mumbai airport following his deportation from Dubai.
Police said Thakkar decision to surrender was prompted by worries of being deported to the US where an arrest warrant is pending against him. He has been charged with “wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and making false statement in approaching for passport.”
Earlier this year, he was detained by the Dubai authorities on a notice issued by the US government but was released owing to lack of evidence.
“The fear of being caught by the American authorities always haunted him. As soon as he heard of the Interpol RCN, which the Indian government requested, he surrendered. He thought the Indian authorities would save him from being deported to the US,” sources said. “We believe he had sought legal advice before surrendering,” they added.
The scam, which operated since 2013 through at least half a dozen call centres in Thane, targeted at least 15,000 US-based tax payers, who were allegedly conned by Indian tele-callers. The US Justice Department has charged 61 people and entities linked to the scam where call centre agents impersonated IRS, immigration and other federal officials and demanded payments for non-existent debts.
While the police have confiscated the Audi, a crime branch team has been sent to Ahmedabad to search for the BMW and confirm whether Thakkar gave them the correct address of the bungalow. Sources said the ‘wanted’ members of the Thakkar family are hiding in Gujarat. “We will soon nab them, along with Thakkar’s friend who hid the SUV,” sources added.
An officer, who is part of the team interrogating Thakkar, said the accused floated a firm called Phoenix IT Infrastructure in Dubai. Though Thakkar said the firm provided logistics to IT firms, the police believe it was a front to launder the money generated through the scam from US to India.
During his stay in Dubai, Thakkar visited Bangkok thrice. The police are trying to establish the veracity of his claims that those were business trips to discuss his upcoming project of setting up solar panels in Gujarat. “He also travelled to the Maldives. We are verifying the reason for this trip,” sources said.
So far, The Thane police have 40 complaints from US citizens who were duped by bogus callers. “Of these, the modus operandi used in eight to 10 cases matches that of the Thane call centre scam, in which callers would pose as officials from the Internal Revenue Service and coerce the unsuspecting victims to pay for defaulting on loans,” said sources.
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