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Exposed: The Cambodia Connection in Cheating Indian Victims Through Fake Investments, Stocks and Slavery

Rourkela Police uncovers a Cambodia-based scam exploiting Indians through investment fraud and cyber slavery operations.



Exposed: The Cambodia Connection in Cheating Indian Victims Through Fake Investments, Stocks and Slavery

Rourkela Police arrested Harish Kurapati and Naga Venkata Sowjanya Kurapati at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad. The duo, key figures in an international cybercrime syndicate, were detained upon their return from Cambodia based on look out circular issued against them, marking a significant stride in the fight against cybercrime.

The arrest is part of a larger investigation initiated in January 2024, following a complaint by a senior officer in the Central government, who fell victim to a fraud amounting to Rs 67.7 lakhs. Spearheaded by  Upasana Padhi, OPS, SDPO Panposh, the investigation exposed a nefarious network with links to cyber slavery, stock fraud, suspected passport forgery, and threats to national security. This operation underscores the global challenges posed by cybercriminals and the imperative for cross-border cooperation to combat such threats.

The Scam: A Complex Web of Deceit

The syndicate, with its roots in Cambodia, executed a sophisticated online scam targeting Indian nationals. The Kurapatis, along with their associates, first joined a company in Phnom Penh, known for orchestrating elaborate scams. Using dating apps like Happn, they meticulously crafted personas to lure unsuspecting Indian men. Posing as women, they engaged in long-term conversations, building trust over time. Once trust was established, the victims were enticed into investing in cryptocurrency trading and stock markets through fabricated online platforms.

READ THE SCAM IN DETAILS: International Cybercrime Ring Busted: Pig Butchering, Cyber Slavery, Stock & Passport Fraud Uncovered

Modus Operandi: Exploitation at Its Core

The scam’s sophistication lay not just in its execution but in its recruitment strategy. The accused ventured to Cambodia, allegedly for legitimate employment, only to find themselves ensnared in a web of criminal activities. The company, masked as a legitimate enterprise, operated a simulated stock market application. This app deceived investors into believing they were making real investments in the Indian stock market. However, their funds were siphoned off to the scammers’ accounts. Initial returns were paid out to gain trust, only for the app to eventually cease payouts, trapping the investors.

In October 2023, the Kurapatis moved to another company, this one specializing in investment scams, broadening their fraudulent activities. The pivot to investment scams introduced a new layer of deceit, with fake apps showing manipulated Indian stock market data. Victims, under the illusion of genuine investments, were defrauded of substantial sums. Sowjanya, also known as Lisa, played a pivotal role, sending gifts to potential investors to rope them into the scam, resulting in losses amounting to crores for some.

A Global Challenge: The Syndicate’s International Footprint

The operation’s international dimension was underscored by the diversity of its workforce. Operatives from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, India, and Cambodia were drawn into the scheme, often under the guise of legitimate employment opportunities. Once in Cambodia, these individuals found themselves stripped of their passports and coerced into participating in the scam. Reports of physical assault, electric shock, and solitary confinement emerged for those who resisted, highlighting the dark underbelly of cyber slavery.

The Fight Against Cybercrime: Collaborative Efforts and Preventive Measures

The Rourkela Police’s efforts to dismantle this network involved meticulous investigation and international collaboration, signaling a robust response to the evolving threat of cybercrime. The identification of over 210 complaints across India, facilitated by the JCCT Management Information System (JMIS) of I4C, MHA, demonstrates the syndicate’s widespread impact. The involvement of Chinese nationals as the scam bosses, employing translators from Malaysia or Cambodia, indicates the complex, international nature of these operations.

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In their relentless pursuit, the Rourkela Police have not only apprehended key operatives but are also working with Interpol to capture high-level operatives of Indian and Nepalese origin, involved in orchestrating these scams. This collaborative approach underscores the necessity of international cooperation in addressing cybercrime, transcending geographical boundaries to ensure justice and prevent future incidents.

Safeguarding Against Cybercrime: Recommendations for the Public

In the wake of these revelations, the Rourkela Police also emphasized the importance of online vigilance. Here are some crucial recommendations to safeguard yourself from falling victim to similar cybercrimes:

ALSO READ: Cracking Down on Telecom Fraud: SIM Dealers Now Require Mandatory Police Verification and KYC

  • Be Wary of Enticing Online Ads: Don’t be swayed by flashy social media posts or pop-up advertisements that promise unrealistic returns on investments.
  • Scrutinize Promises of High Returns: If an investment app touts exceptionally high returns, it’s a giant red flag. Legitimate investment opportunities typically offer moderate, sustainable growth.
  • Double-Check Account Details: Always meticulously verify account information before transferring any money. A small mistake can result in a significant loss.
  • Financial Transactions with Strangers? Proceed with Caution: Never engage in financial transactions with people you don’t know and haven’t thoroughly verified their credentials.
  • Cautious on Dating Apps: Don’t get swept up in the moment on dating apps. Before making any financial commitments, confirm the other person’s identity.
  • Report Cybercrime Immediately: If you suspect you’ve been a target of cybercrime, report it immediately. Contact the National Cyber Crime Helpline at 1930 or visit the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal to register your complaint.



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