PUNE: The Pune police cyber crime branch arrested three Nigerian nationals from New Delhi on Wednesday on charges of duping a 60-year-old woman senior executive of a private firm in the city of Rs 3.98 crore in April under the guise of sending her gifts.
According to the victim’s FIR, she received a friend request on a social media platform from a person who claimed himself to be from the United Kingdom in April 2021. Five months later, the man informed her that he had sent her an iPhone as a birthday present.
The accused then forced her to pay large sums under the guise of customs clearance for the gifts which is stuck at the Delhi airport. His accomplice pretended to be courier agency representatives and customs officials called the victim claiming that the consignments also contains jewellery and foreign currency for which she has to pay more.
According to the cyber police, the woman transferred Rs 3.98 crore to 67 different accounts in 25 banks. She filed an FIR after realising she had been duped, citing relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act.
Following her complaint, a technical investigation was carried out and the accused were tracked in Delhi. A raid was carried out and three Nigerian nationals were arrested.
Those arrested have been identified as Jango Nicolas (29), Monday Okeke (26), and Paulinus Mbamgo (29), all from Lagos, Nigeria.
“We have recovered 23 smartphones, four laptops, a hard disc, five dongles, three pen drives, eight SIM cards, three debit cards, an identity card, and other documents from their flat in Delhi,” said a senior police officer.
“The online fraudster began requesting money under the guise of sending gifts such as an iPhone, jewellery, and foreign currency, as well as for a variety of false reasons such as customs clearance and other formalities for these gifts. The woman was promised that she would be reimbursed for the money she gave. The victim transferred funds worth up to Rs 1 crore for these gifts. However, what began as a gift scam evolved into online extortion. The suspects began threatening her with a variety of legal actions. The woman was informed that there were illegalities in the items she had paid for, and she would face legal action. The complainant then transferred even more money under these threats by the accused,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cyber Crime and Economic Offences) Bhagyashree Navtake to the media.
According to a Pune City Police official, this could be one of the largest sums of money lost in a gift fraud case investigated by any police body in the country.
“While the arrest of the three has proven to be a significant breakthrough, we have recovered data from at least 70 to 80 cases of similar gift fraud committed by them,” DCP Navtake added. Some of these cases have been registered in Pune as well. We will continue to investigate these frauds and bring them to a conclusion.”
According to police, the cyber fraudsters syphoned off large sums of money that the victims had transferred into various bank accounts per their instructions. According to sources, police are attempting to follow the money trail.
Pune City Police said cyber criminals are active on social media platforms to cheat people. Police have asked residents not to respond to unidentified people on social media who are attempting to form friendships. Residents should be aware of such cyber fraudsters and avoid making any financial transactions as a result of their false claims of gifts, online lottery winnings, jobs, and business opportunities.