A month after the Telangana Police began the crackdown on illegal instant loan apps following suicide by five persons, the investigation showed a deeper Chinese link to the scam.
After taking at least four Chinese nationals into custody for running the illegal apps, the police is now probing the role of some other Chinese.
In the latest incident, Cyberabad police arrested three persons in connection with instant personal loan apps on January 22.
Those arrested are Hemanth Kumar Jha, director of Flash Cash Pvt limited, Gurugram, V. Manjunath, HR Manager at Juss IT Technologies Pvt LTD., Bengaluru and Abdul Lauk, Manager/Team leader at TGHY Trust rock Pvt. limited, Bengaluru.
These arrests were made during the investigations into the suicide of one G. Chandra Mohan (38). He had taken Rs 70,000 loans from 11 different apps. “He repaid Rs 2 lakh to these apps in installments but he was still being harassed for being a defaulter. This drove him to suicide,” said P.V. Padmaja, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Balanagar), Cyberabad.
Chandra Mohan, working in a supermarket, hanged himself on January 2 due to the alleged harassment.
The police found in their investigations that the three companies were offering small loan amounts through different apps on Google Play Store and collecting repayments by way of harassment and blackmailing.
Hemanth developed apps with the help of one Michael of China and was running his office at Gurugram for maintaining the database of the customers.
Police were also probing the role of a Bhutan national, who lives in India and is the director of a company associated with the disbursement of loans through the apps.
The investigations revealed that after issuing loans to customers for seven days, the companies used to divide the customers into different categories and collect repayment first by calling them. In the next stage they used to send SMS, then messages by WhatsApp and followed by emails. The final method was calling the relatives of the customers and defaming them.
“To recover the loan from customers they practiced different methods depending upon the dues. In case of higher dues the treatment was very harsh, threatening and abusive. They also accessed the contacts of relatives and friends of the customers and sent them WhatsApp messages defaming the defaulters,” the DCP said.
The companies were collecting 35 per cent interest rate per annum from the customers who repaid the loan amount on time and imposed huge penalties on defaulters. The harassment was starting soon after the customers exceeded their due date.
The police also found that these apps have tied-up with Non-Banking Financing Companies (NBFCs). Police said notices will be issued to all NBFCs. The police have also written to Google to take down the applications because of their criminal activities.
The modus operandi in this case is not different from other cases cracked by the police during the last one month.
More than 30 accused, including four Chinese nationals have been arrested by Hyderabad, Cyberabad and Rachakonda police, the three commissionerates which cover Greater Hyderabad.
It was on December 4 that E.S. Yadav (23) of Narsapur in Medak district hanged himself, unable to bear the harassment by loan apps. He had taken a loan of around Rs 6,000.
K. Mounika (28), an agriculture extension officer, committed suicide by consuming poison on December 16. She had taken multiple loans from various apps to the extent of Rs 2.5 lakh.
On December 17, Sunil, a 29-year-old techie hanged himself in Hyderabad. He had taken a loan of Rs 70,000 to 80,000 and was asked to return more than Rs 2 lakh and when he could not repay, the representatives of apps defamed him by sending messages to all his contacts.
According to Director General of Police M. Mahender Reddy, 50 cases were registered in connection with the instant loan apps.
The first arrests were made on December 22 during the crackdown by Hyderabad and Cyberabad police on five call centres in Hyderabad and Gurugram.
Hyderabad police arrested 11 people while Cyberabad police nabbed six people in the multi-crore money-lending racket.
Police claimed that thousands of people across the country were targeted through instant loan apps after lockdown.
“The call centres in Hyderabad employed 600 telecallers and at Gurugram there were nearly 500 telecallers, offering services to 30 money-lending apps. These money-lending app companies were illegally operating without following RBI guidelines and subjecting people who borrowed money to harassment, forcing some of them to commit suicide,” said Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said.
It was on December 25 that the first Chinese was arrested in the racket. Cyberabad police Yi Bai alias Dennis from Delhi. He was managing at least 11 such apps offering small loans at extremely high interest rates.
The prime accused is suspected to be another Chinese national Zixia Zhang, who is believed to be currently in Singapore.
On December 27, Rachakonda police arrested three persons, including a female Chinese national Liang Tian Tian. Parshuram Lahu Takve, his wife Liang Tian Tian and HR Manager S.K. Aaqib, were arrested from the Pune call centre.
The accused had an agreement with four different financing companies in Mumbai and Mysuru for loan recovery by setting up a call centre in Pune.
According to Rachakonda Police Commissioner Mahesh Bhagwat the tele-callers abused customers in filthy language and threatened them with dire consequences.
On December 30, the Hyderabad police arrested two more persons, including a Chinese national Zhu Wei alias Lambo. The 27-year-old Chinese was picked up at Delhi airport minutes before he was to board a flight to Frankfurt on his way to Shanghai.
Lambo is alleged to be the overall head of four different companies running seven call centres in Gurugram, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Police believe that four companies run by the accused allegedly carried out 1.4 crore transactions worth nearly Rs 21,000 crore.
He was reportedly in touch with another Chinese national, Yuan Yuan alias Sissi alias Jennifer, who set up the operations in India but is believed to be in China.
On January 13, Rachakonda police arrested Chinese national He Jian and his Indian associate Vivek Kumar from Thane. Jian’s arrest came following interrogation of Liang Tian Tian.
The arrested Chinese have reportedly revealed the names of at least five other accused, all Chinese nationals.
Instant loan apps scam is not the first case in which Chinese have been arrested. In October, the Hyderabad police had arrested Yah Hao from Delhi for illegally running betting apps and duping Indians of crores of rupees.
The investigators found similarity between betting racket and loan apps as both used Indians as fronts and relied on digital wallets to move money.