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Economic Fraud

Massive Gold Bust: ED Seizes Rs 14 Crore Hidden in Cyber Fraudster’s Locker

– Cyber fraudster stashed Rs 14Cr in gold! ED seized 19.5kg gold from locker in Faridabad linked to the accused.
– Probe reveals online gaming money laundering & use of shell companies.



Massive Gold Bust: ED Seizes Rs 14 Crore Hidden in Cyber Fraudster's Locker

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has seized 19.5 kg of gold, valued at approximately Rs 14.04 crore, from a locker belonging to a notorious cyber fraudster. The locker was maintained under the name of the fraudster’s mother at the Indian Bank’s Ballabgarh branch in Faridabad, Haryana. The seizure was made on May 3, following detailed intelligence reports.

The fraudster, identified as Punit Kumar, also known as Puneet Maheshwari, is a resident of Moti Nagar, Delhi. He was apprehended earlier on April 3 at the Arrival Hall of Terminal-3 at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport. Following his arrest, Kumar was presented before the Delhi PMLA Court and was placed under ED custody for 12 days, after which he was transferred to judicial custody.

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This recent action is a continuation of a broader investigation into Kumar’s activities, which involve large-scale cyber frauds linked to foreign-based online gaming companies exploiting Indian residents. In earlier raids conducted under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, the ED had already seized assets including eight kg of foreign-made gold bars worth Rs 5.04 crore, Rs 75 lakh in cash, luxury items like high-end watches, jewellery, and several luxury vehicles such as Mercedes, Audi, and Kia from 14 different locations in February and March 2024.

Additional findings from these investigations reveal Kumar’s involvement with Ashish Kakkar, Keshav Sood, Shiv Dargar, and others in facilitating large-scale remittances derived from cybercrimes. These funds were allegedly sent to various international destinations including the UAE, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Thailand, often via hawala transactions.

Kakkar, in particular, was found to be the linchpin in an extensive network of shell trading companies and bogus entities established across India and several foreign countries. During searches at Kakkar’s properties under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), ED officials discovered a plethora of incriminating documents, forged IDs, and digital devices used for illegal online transactions. These documents facilitated the operation of numerous dummy firms involved in import/export activities in Special Economic Zones to bypass FEMA regulations.

The modus operandi of these operations was to use these dummy firms to launder the proceeds of crime from online gaming through outward foreign remittances. A total of 188 bank accounts linked to 167 domestic firms and 110 accounts associated with 105 foreign firms were identified in the network, implicating a vast and intricate financial crime scheme.

The ongoing investigations highlight the complex nature of cybercrime and the sophisticated methods employed by criminals to launder ill-gotten gains across international borders. This case serves as a reminder of the challenges law enforcement agencies face in combating cybercrime and underscores the importance of stringent monitoring and regulatory frameworks to curb such illegal activities.

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