The recent arrests of Chinese spies in different states in India over the last 24-months throw up an interesting covert strategy operated by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) of China in espionage on India – Hawala operators running money-laundering rackets through Loan Apps and Rummy Online. This investigation by Savio Rodrigues shows how loan apps operated by Chinese intelligence pose a National Security threat to India.
Recently, the Karnataka Cyber Crime Division of CID has busted Rs 290 crore Hawala racket and arrested 11 people including two Chinese, two Tibetan Nationals, and five people who were acting as Directors of the Shell companies.
Investigating police told GoaChronicle that a criminal case was registered to vide CCPS Cr No 08/2021 u/s 66 (D) IT Act & 420 IPC. During the course of the investigation, it was found that Anas Ahmed, a Kerala-based businessman is the main person involved in this hawala & money laundering racket. We have also identified that he has very close connections with the Chinese hawala operators which have come to light during the course of the investigation. He had opened shell companies in the name of Bullfinch Technologies, H & S Ventures, and Clifford Ventures to route the money.
Anas Ahmed is married to a Chinese national Hu Xiolin and incidentally, he did his studies in China. Hu Xiolin holds a Chinese passport.
Police said that Online Rummy applications hosted by him were later camouflaged and converted into different applications like Power Bank Application, Sun Factory Application seeking investment from the public promising good returns. An unusual spike was seen in user investments on the day Anas Ahmed announced much higher returns. As per his plan, the apps from Google Playstore and other websites were removed and he absconded with the money.
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During the investigation, it was found that a total of Rs 290 Crore inflow to his bank accounts. The Cyber Crime Division was successful in freezing a significant portion of money from the account. It is also noted during the investigation that there is a huge spike in the opening of shell companies since November 2020.
Investigating officers state that they had also observed that the Chinese handlers are in possession of a huge number of shell companies and bank accounts. Lured by the offer of the Chinese nationals, many innocent Indians and Tibetans have fallen in their trap to open shell companies and open bank accounts for them.
In August 2020, Luo Sang was a suspect in a Rs 1000 crore hawala racket by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). He had assumed an Indian identity and ran five companies in India as director. He controlled most of the companies as a majority stockholder. He claimed to be an Indian citizen from Manipur named Charlie Peng. Sang, as Indian national Peng had submitted an Aadhaar Card and PAN Card as identity proof in company formation.
Lou Sang’s first company under the name Sang was incorporated in March 2018 named Fin Block India Private Limited. In 2019, Sang joined the boards of three more companies – INWIN Logistics Private Limited, OTA New Delhi Private Limited, and Clean Harbours Private Limited. In 2020, he started another company OTA Logistic Private Limited – a transport and travel business company.
Sang as Peng was infusing cash of around Rs 3 crore through the hawala chain on a daily basis with the help of bank employees in Bandhan Bank and ICICI Bank. He held over 40 bank accounts.
In January 2021, Lou Sang (Charlie Peng) and Carter Lee another Chinese national were arrested by the ED in the Rs 1000 crore money-laundering case.
Sang was earlier arrested in 2018, by a joint team of central intelligence agencies and the Delhi Police special cell for impersonation and forgery. He had married an Indian national to expedite acquiring an Indian passport. The investigators alleged that he was working for Chinese intelligence agencies and running the business of hawala transactions through a currency exchange firm, but he was granted bail by a Delhi court in 2019.
Reportedly during the interrogations at the time, Sang admitted to various narratives including being a Tibetan fleeing Chinese persecution, a criminal who was forced into spying by the Chinese government as well as being a PLA soldier. “He was a hard nut to crack. A trained spy, he confused his interrogators. He repeatedly changed his Chinese background story several times to hoodwink us,” an official who questioned him in 2018 told GoaChronicle.
Sang told his interrogators that his mission was to enter the inner circle of Dalai Lama and also assist Chinese Embassy officials in transferring money and arranging logistics.
Last year, the Central Crime Branch (CCB) Cyber Cell Special squad had nabbed three people who had indulged in giving loans and collecting huge money in the name of interest, compound interest, and broker charges on behalf of companies owned by Chinese people.
Police said on Monday that the arrested were identified as Syed Ahmed, Syed Irfan, and Aditya Senapathy.
On getting complaints, CCB Cyber Crime cell launched raids on Ace Pearl Services Pvt., Ltd at Koramangala Extension in the City. To their surprise, it was unearthed that four more firms also functioning there and all were giving loans online and collecting interest, compound interest, and charges. If loanees failed to give the money demanded they will be threatened with dire consequences.
Another surprise in store for the CCB was that other four firms were run by Chinese people that included Higelar Services Pvt., Ltd., Exceedwell Service Pvt., Ltd. Mascotstar Services Pvt Ltd. Aqua Stiller Pvt. Ltd., who were running apps like Loan App, Money day, Paise a Pan, Loan Time, Rupee Day, Rupee Kart in Cash. They were running Call Centers to collect loan amounts.
CCB sleuths have seized 35 Laptops, 200 basic mobiles of different companies, 8 Cheque Books of various banks, 30 sim cards of various companies.
Last year, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had registered as case against seven companies out of which three are fintech (financial technology) companies namely Mad Elephant Network Technology Private Limited, Baryonyx Technology Private Limited, and Cloud Atlas Future Technology Private Limited which are controlled by Chinese nationals and three NBFCs (non-banking financial companies) registered with RBI. The Chinese loan apps offered loans to individuals and levied usurious rates of interest and processing fees.
Also last year, the Telangana Police arrested Chinese nationals Zhu Wei, Yi Bai, Liang Tian Tian, and Yah Hao in an Rs 1100 crore Chinese Loan App money-laundering scam.
Yah Hao, a Chinese national, Dheeraj Sarka, Ankit Kapoor, and Neeraj Tuli were directors of Dookypay, an e-wallet company based in Delhi. The quartet was helping transfer the money from those participating in online gambling to the parent company – Beijing-based T Power Company.
Last year also, Delhi Police Special arrested a freelance journalist for sharing sensitive data to China, it is now closing in on the alleged hawala traders related to the case.
Reportedly, huge amount of money was sent to Rajiv Sharma through hawala operators from both the shell companies owned by Chinese national Qing Shi.
Last week, Border Security Force (BSF) arrested a Chinese national Han Junwe near the Indo-Bangladesh border. Reportedly, he was working for the Chinese intelligence agency in India.
According to the statement issued by BSF South Bengal Frontier, Han Junwe, a resident of Hubei in China, was a wanted criminal and is being interrogated properly. All intelligence agencies are working together on this incident.
“An extensive search of the electronic equipment found in possession of the Chinese intruder, many facts have indicated that he was working for the Chinese Intelligence Agency in India”, the Force said and hinted that many ‘startling details’ may surface as the matter is probed in depth.
During the questioning by the BSF officials, Junwe also confessed that one of his business partners namely Sun Jiang used to send him 10-15 numbers of Indian mobile phone SIMs after a few days, which were received by him and his wife,” but a few days ago his business partner was caught by ATS Lucknow who disclosed about me and my wife, due to which a case was registered against us in ATS Lucknow”.
Due to the case registered against him, he did not get an Indian visa in China and he got a visa from Bangladesh and Nepal to come to India so that he could come to India, he added.
Junwe also disclosed that even before this, he has come to India four times, first and in 2010 he had come to Hyderabad, Delhi, and Gurugram thrice after 2019.
According to him, he has a hotel in Gurugram named “Star Spring”. Some of his colleagues in this hotel are from China and the rest of the Indian people have been employed.
From interrogation and recovered passport, it was learned that he reached Dhaka, Bangladesh on June 2, 2021, on a business visa, and stayed there with a Chinese friend. Then on June 8, 2021, he came to Sona Masjid, District- Chapainawabganj (Bangladesh) and stayed in a hotel there. On 10 June 2021, when he was trying to enter inside the Indian territory, he was caught by the BSF troops.
During his thorough search one Apple Laptop, two iPhone Mobile, one Bangladeshi SIM, one Indian SIM, two Chinese SIM, two Pen Drive, three Battery, two Small Torch, five Money Transaction Machine, two ATM/Master Card, US Dollar, Bangladeshi Taka and Indian currency were recovered from his possession.
The Indian intelligence agencies have managed to catch a few Chinese spies operating as ‘hawala operators’ but there is still an imminent need to keep a watch on many Chinese firms in India.