In a massive crackdown on online fraud, the Delhi Police have arrested 11 people, and identified at least 10 Chinese nationals, who were running a syndicate to dupe people of their money through fake mobile investment applications.

The Chinese were the mastermind behind the racket that the police said have so far cheated more than five lakh people of at least Rs 150 crore.

The investigators have found that the money collected through these applications, was routed through multiple shell companies and was being sent to the kingpins in China as cryptocurrencies. The apps not only cheated several Indians but also stole their data and shared it with servers based in China, police said.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police (cyber cell), Anyesh Roy, said two of the arrested men are chartered accountants, Avik Kedia, a resident of Gurugram and Ronak Bansal, from Katwaria Sarai, Delhi. The arrested persons also include a Tibetan woman who was operating from Bangalore.

According to Roy, they had received several complaints regarding mobile applications like Power Bank, EZPlan and SunFactory, which offered lucrative returns on investment with claims to double the investment amount in 24-35 days. The applications also offered returns on an hourly and daily basis.

“Detailed analysis of such applications revealed that these were projected as a Bengaluru-based technology start-ups but the servers on which these applications were hosted was found to be based in China," Roy said.

The officer said that to identify the people behind the scam, a token amount was paid by the cybercrime team using the app and the money trail was followed. “The linked payment gateways, UPI IDs, transaction IDs, bank accounts, etc., used by the fraudsters were identified and analysed. The connected mobile numbers and companies in whose accounts the cheated money was getting transferred, were obtained and studied. It was noticed that the accused persons had created a web of around 25 shell companies for routing the fraud money. These companies were located in different parts of the country," he said.

The police also found that several mobile numbers connected with the bank accounts involved in the scam were found active in China. The other mobile numbers active in India were traced and the police zeroed in one of the main suspects Sheikh Robin based in Uluberia, West Bengal. The details of other directors of the shell companies were also obtained and following multiple raids in Delhi NCR and West Bengal on June 2, Robin and 10 others were arrested. The others were dummy directors in these shell companies, police said.

As many as 30 mobile phones were also recovered from the accused Robin, whose disclosure revealed a startlingly well-planned conspiracy of cheating and fraud being organised by Chinese nationals through a labyrinth of shell companies, bank accounts and dummy mobile numbers.

DCP Roy said interrogation of the arrested persons revealed that the two CAs, Avik and Ronak, would create shell companies in the name of their family members, friends and employees and then sell these companies to Chinese nationals for Rs 2-3 lakh each.

“They would also undertake other activities for these Chinese nationals with whom they were in touch through Telegram, DingTalk, WeChat, etc. This would include arranging for bank accounts, payment gateways, other dummy directors, etc. for which they would charge a specific amount. Avik Kedia has alone created over 110 shell companies for the Chinese fraudsters. Names of several Chinese nationals have been revealed so far. Investigation in respect of their whereabouts, specific roles and their large fraud network is underway. According to the current estimates, the total cheated amount is around Rs 150 crore and the total recovery so far in cash, bank accounts and payment gateways is around Rs 12 crore," Roy added.