Hyderabad: As many as 20,000 people were cheated across the country to the tune of Rs. 50 crore by fraudsters, including two Chinese nationals. The scamsters, three of whom were arrested by Telangana police from Gurgaon, used Whatsapp and a “sharing economy” (similar to a pyramid scam) model to cheat people of their money.
According to V. C. Sajjanar, commisisoner of police, Cyberabad, three persons identified as Uday Pratap (41), Nitish Kumar Kothari (36) and Rajesh Sharma (36), have been arrested. On their arrest, Rs. 3 crore in 10 different bank accounts connected to the crime were frozen, while four laptops and three mobile phones were also seized from their possession.
Zhang Hong and Peng Gouwei, the two accused Chinese nationals who are believed to be “kingpins” of the fraud, and the three arrested were allegedly working for the Chinese persons. They used WhatsApp, and shared information of their fraudulent scheme through their ‘Shared BK/Sharing economy’ app across the country, by inviting investments or deposits in their schemes.
The accused drew in gullible people by assuring them about five times more returns on deposits or investments in 90 days. According to the Cyberabad police, the schemes promised investors Rs.1,350 in 90 days for a deposit of Rs.300. Similarly, two other schemes promised a return of Rs.13,500 if one invested Rs.3,000 in 90 days. The largest return was that of Rs.67,500 for an investment of Rs.15,000, also in 90 days.
“Initially the people were suspicious about their returns on investments through schemes of Rs.300 and Rs.3000 but when they started receiving credits into their bank accounts, they were influenced on investing in bigger plans of Rs. 30,000 and its multiples. Besides they also referred the scheme to their relatives and friends, which resulted in an increase in the number of depositors,” said a press release from the Cyberabad police.
After falling for the scam, many people began sharing their personal and bank details on the website www.ciciseo.com and became members. The payments for the scam were made through Razorpay payment gateway, which would be done by clicking links from registered phone number. As per the scheme, the returns on the sum invested would be shown in the ‘withdrawal/pending payments’ section of the app and would be credited to depositors’ bank account. The App was shut-down from January 25.
Uday Pratap used to work under the directions of both Zhang Hongwei and Peng Guowei, and in January 2020 Peng Guowei left India and did not return due to COVID-19 international travel restrictions. Zhang Hongwei had never come to India. The trio launched the ‘shared bike’ application and started cheating people and stayed in contact with each other through Skype and WhatsApp.
Sajjanar commended the efforts of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) S.M. Vijay Kumar, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACO) A. V. R. Narasimha Rao and other officials from the Economic Offences Wing for busting the fraudulent scheme.
The general public has also been requested to inform their nearest police station or dial 100 or lodge a complaint through WhatsApp to 9493625553.