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January 15, 2021

Massive fraud, money laundering scam detected

National

January 15, 2021

KARACHI: The Federal Investigative Agency, Karachi has arrested CEO of a software company for harassment, money laundering, forgery and other cybercrimes.

The CEO was arrested from a house in DHA Phase 8, and two of his laptops and a mobile phone were confiscated, later another raid was conducted at the company’s head office.

The FIR was registered under sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, Pakistan Penal Code, and Anti-Money Laundering Act- 2010. The FIR, filed on behalf of the state at the Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, accuses the company of forgery, money laundering, cheating and a number of similar other crimes. The company’s owner, CEO, business unit head and others have been implicated for alleged involvement in money laundering, harassing people, fraudulent activities, identity impersonation, cheating, phishing and extortion.

The company claimed doing multi million dollar business of web development related services to international clients. It also recently claimed to hit $2.5 million milestone. According to the FIR registered on November 5, 2020 on the basis of ‘source report’ received from the Counter Terrorism Wing.

The source identified several such scams operating throughout Pakistan indulging in harassment of people, fraudulent activities, identity impersonation, cheating, phishing and extortion. It was revealed that the scammers operate different websites and offering various services, include web designing and web development. They blackmailed and extorted money from their clients after gaining personal information by impersonating as government officials from US, UK and UAE.

These scammers directed customers for filing for trademarks and directed them to deposit forex for trade mark registration, while charging them minimum of USD 100 to initiate the process. Impersonating as government officials, the scammers also warned their companies of being shutdown. They would forcefully shutdown customers’ website and then extort hefty amounts for its restoration.

The Counter Terrorism Wing report further implicated the beneficial owners of the company, offices situated at Business Avenue, Sharae Faisal, PECHS, Karachi. The report implicated owner, CEO, Business Unit Head and others of the serious crimes.

An FIA raiding party of CCRC Karachi interrogated CEO at a house in DHA Phase VIII, Karachi. He surrendered two laptops and one I Phone which were examined by FIA forensic experts and found incriminating material.

Later, following leads provided by the CEO, FIA raided the offices of the company and examined the server room, system data, CPUs, laptops, mobile phones, hard drives, servers.

The digital equipment was forensically examined and huge incriminating material against the accused was recovered, including credit card information, security codes, voice notes and images for funds layering among domestic and international accounts, call recordings of international clients complaining of unauthorized charging of credit cards, besides fake and forged certificates purportedly issued by the United States Patent and Trademark office (USPO) as soft copies, suspicious voice recordings with clients, emails with clients.

In at least one case, USD 1,300 were found fraudulently transacted from the seized gadgets.During the forensic examination, phishing websites being operated with fake UAN numbers and dummy addresses in US and UK were also traced which were being operated from the company. They were being used to cheat international clients and obtain unlawful financial gains.

The accused informed the FIA investigators that the company agents blackmailed clients by charging their credit cards without authorization. Impersonating as officers of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) through fake IDs they would warn the clients that their products, businesses, websites would be blacklisted unless they pay more money (extortion), if they want logo/web site/content to be registered with USPTO. Besides they would be threatened that all money previously paid by the client for trade marking will be confiscated.

They also used different WhatsApp groups with credit card information of clients, including security codes, unauthorized payment links to receive payments from international clients.

During the course of enquiry at FIA, CCRC, Karachi it was found that more than 12 bank accounts were maintained in the names of suspects received in the grab of software sales to launder the extortion money. Heavy local and international transactions were made through these bank accounts. The company was also found receiving payments through illegal Hundi/Hawala channels and its evidence was recovered from the laptop company CEO’s.