Card-cloning gang sends bitcoins to Dubai via hawala operator, 1 held

A 25-year-old man has been arrested for cloning debit and credit cards. His gang members are spread across Delhi, Mumbai and Dubai. The money was sent to Dubai-resident Sumair Sheikh through a ‘hawala’ operator, police said on Tuesday.

Pankaj Bhardwaj, a resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district, was nabbed in a joint operation by Delhi and Mumbai Police.

“A gang involved in cloning cards was found active in Mumbai. Several complaints were received from Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and some southern states. It was alleged that money was being withdrawn from bank accounts from Mumbai through ATMs,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ravindra Yadav.

Subsequently, Mumbai Police arrested Nasir Ansari when he was withdrawing cash from an ATM in Mumbai. Over 20 cloned ATM cards were recovered from his possession.

On interrogation, Nisar told police that he used to send cash to Sumair Sheikh in Delhi. A team of Mumbai Police then sought assistance of Delhi Police in tracing Sumair.

Information was developed and the local hawala operator was also identified, who confirmed that he used to hand over the received amount to a person on the basis of code words received from Mumbai. The receiver was identified as Pankaj.

“It was learnt that Pankaj would come near India Gate. A trap was laid and Pankaj was apprehended,” Yadav added.

Pankaj’s interrogation revealed that he used to receive the amount sent by Nasir and other gang members on behalf of Sumair, who stays at Dubai.

At Sumair’s instance, Pankaj buys bitcoins and transfers them online to Sumair who got those bitcoins encashed. Pankaj got a share from the amount.  

Sumair procured data of debit and credit cards through his sources in Mumbai. It was used for cloned cards.

Pankaj told police that he has forwarded bitcoins equivalent to over Rs 30 lakh to Sumair in last five months.

He recently received Rs 14 lakh from Mumbai and forwarded bitcoins of Rs 5 lakh to Sumair. Police have recovered Rs 8 lakh from Pankaj’s house.

Currently, there are no regulation governing virtual currencies like bitcoins in India. India does not have a centralised bitcoin exchange, but users buy and sell coins through several websites.
Around 23,000 Indians have online bitcoin wallets where their digital currency is stored. The value off one bitcoin is equivalent to Rs 24,633.

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