By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Aug 30:
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the raids conducted at 15 locations spread across Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai and Pune over suspected money-laundering, froze four bank accounts containing Rs 46.96 crore in a probe related to Chinese apps allegedly running online betting operations in India in a racket possibly worth over Rs 1000 crore.
The ED launched a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), on Friday on the basis of a Hyderabad police FIR against two companies Dokypay Technology Pvt Ltd and Linkyun Technology Pvt Ltd among others in which the state police arrested a Chinese national, Yan Hao, and two Indians, Dhiraj Sarkar and Ankit Kapoor, earlier this month.
Yan Hao, manager of a company named Beijing Tomorrow Power Company, was allegedly organising an online betting scam. ED said on Saturday that Chinese nationals, with the help of some Indian chartered accountants, floated multiple Indian companies. “Initially dummy Indian directors were used to incorporate the companies and, after some time, Chinese nationals travelled to India and took directorship in these companies.
After the bank accounts were opened, the Internet access credentials were couriered by the Indian employees to China. Major payment instructions came from the beneficial owners who operated from there. The accused companies floated a large number of similar looking websites which were hosted through Cloudfare, United States, said the agency.
People were lured into becoming members and placings bets on these apps, which promised attractive rewards on simple games of chance. Some locals were hired and used to open bank accounts with HSBC Bank and open trade accounts with online wallets namely Paytm, Cashfree, Razorpay, etc,” ED said. The accused companies had pan-Indian operations .
Detailing the modus operandi, ED said once bank accounts were opened, the internet access credentials were couriered by the Indian employees to China and major payment instructions came from the owners in China. Accused companies floated large number of similar looking websites which were hosted through Cloudfare, US. These websites attracted gullible persons to become members and to place bets… Further, a network of agents was hired to attract new customers/members. These agents created closed Telegram and WhatsApp based groups and attracted lakhs… Referral codes were used to privately invite new members. This also helped the sponsoring member to earn commission, ED officials said.
“Paytm and Cashfree were used to collect money and pay commission to all these agent members. Hundreds of websites were created to promote online betting under the garb of e-commerce. All websites were not activated daily. Some were activated for placing bets and the information on daily active websites was shared to members using Telegram groups,” they added. Two bank accounts of Dokypay saw a collection of Rs 1,268 crore, of which Rs 300 crore came via Paytm and around Rs 600 crore was transferred out via Paytm gateway. “Account analysis of M/s Linkyun Technolgy revealed a similar pattern.
Large unexplained financial transactions were also seen with other Indian companies running Chinese dating apps for Indians. “There is a suspicion that apart from indulging in banned activities like online betting, this network of companies with their reliance on online wallets and their lax regulatory systems could have been used for hawala transactions as well. ED is in the process of obtaining information from online wallet companies, HSBC Bank, registrar of companies, etc.