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January 12, 2018

FIA gets three-day remand of two Chinese skimmers


January 12, 2018

A judicial magistrate (South) on Thursday granted three-day physical remand of two Chinese nationals facing charges of using skimming devices to steal bank customers’ ATM data. The case against Zing Q Ping and Zhong Sheven had been registered by the FIA’s Cyber Crime Circle on Wednesday after they were arrested in the Zainab Market area.

The investigation officer (IO) told the court that the two were unable to speak Urdu or English. He said the initial investigation showed that the accused were the part of a group of a10-member gang of criminals.

He said FIA officials were trying to arrest the companions of the detained Chinese men, and police claimed to have recovered some ATM skimming machines and other equipment from their possession.

Officials said the suspects had been loitering close to the ATM booth of a private bank on Abdullah Haroon Road when they were asked to stop by bank employees. Upon being asked to stop, the Chinese nationals tried to flee but were caught by citizens and handed over to police. The court directed the IO to submit a progress report at the next hearing.

Language barrier

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is said to be facing problems with questioning the suspects due to the language barrier and facial similarities among Chinese nationals, our reporter Aamir Majeed added.

Official sources at the Cyber Crime Circle told The News that the agency contacted the FIA’s Immigration Wing at the Jinnah International Airport (JIA) and requested it to send in pictures of the Chinese nationals from its database to validate the claims of the suspects about their arrival in the country.

“The Immigration Wing has sent pictures of the Chinese nationals who arrived in the country, but the investigators once again got confused and found it difficult to identify the suspects due to facial similarities of the Chinese visitors.”

The problem first surfaced in June 2016 when the FIA had arrested a Chinese national for allegedly stealing data from a private bank with skimming devices at one of its ATM booths. The arrest came after the bank management approached the FIA for its assistance when they observed suspicious activity of two foreigners at their Plaza Square branch.

The Cyber Crime Cell initiated a probe against the suspect and sought data from the Immigration Wing of Chinese nationals who had arrived in the country, but the investigators found themselves in a fix in identify the visitors.

Trust breached

Beside facial similarities, the agency found it difficult to carry forward the investigation due to the language barrier.

Cyber Crime Circle Additional Director Amjad Abbasi told The News that the arrested suspects could only speak Chinese. “Investigators tried to communicate with them in English, but they failed to respond to the questions,” he said, adding: “The FIA has sought help of translators to question the arrested suspects.”

Abbasi maintained that the agency sought the help of locals who could translate Chinese into English and Urdu to ensure progress in the investigation, and said the agency had arranged two locals for this job.

Speaking about the use of devices recovered from the possession of the suspects, he said the skimming devices were being used to steal data, including pin code numbers of ATM cards. Abbasi added that the suspects told had investigators that they carried out financial transactions fraudulently in ATM booths of all banks. He observed that the use of obsolete ATM technology by banks and decades-old security system employed at ATM booths had made them an easy target for any organised foreign group.

Guest house raid

Saddar Town SP Tauqeer Muhammad Naeem told The News that a joint team of the police’s Foreigners Security Cell (FSC) and the FIA’s Cyber Crime Circle conducted a raid on Qasr-e-Zehra, a guest house situated on Street 22, Khayaban-e-Tanzeem, DHA Phase-V, and recovered four more ATM cards, one 16GB memory card and one Union Pay Card from the room of the accused.

He said police seized incriminating articles/equipment, i.e, one spying camera along with 16GB memory card and one skimming device from the ATM booth of a bank, on the spot.

Case registered

An FIR was lodged against two Chinese nationals under sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10(a) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 read with sections 420 and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code at the FIA Cyber Crime Circle police station on the complaint of the bank’s operation manager, Munawar Ali.

The suspects in their statement to the FIA said that they arrived in Pakistan on January 4 this year for the purpose of business, and they adopted residence in the guest house.