ED Seizes ₹14 Crore Worth of Gold from Cyber Fraudster's Locker
ED Seizes ₹14 Crore Worth of Gold from Cyber Fraudster's Locker

Chandigarh: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) made a significant seizure of 19.5 kg of gold, valued at ₹14.04 crore, from a locker belonging to a cyber fraudster's mother. The locker was maintained at the Ballabgarh branch of Indian Bank in Faridabad, Haryana. According to an official statement on Monday, the accused, identified as Punit Kumar, also known as Puneet Maheshwari, was apprehended on April 3 at the Arrival Hall, Terminal-3 of the IGI Airport in New Delhi. He was subsequently presented before the Delhi Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) Court, which granted the ED 12 days of custody. Currently, Kumar is in judicial custody.

The seizure of gold followed specific intelligence, suggesting that Kumar had stashed the proceeds of cybercrimes in gold in a locker registered under his mother's name with Indian Bank.

Earlier raids, conducted in February and March 2024 under the PMLA, at 14 locations, resulted in the confiscation of various assets. These included foreign-made gold bars weighing eight kg, valued at ₹5.04 crore, found at Kumar's residence. Besides gold, cash amounting to ₹75 lakh, jewellery, luxury watches, and high-end vehicles such as Mercedes, Audi, and Kia were also seized. Additionally, officials recovered incriminating documents and electronic devices containing crucial evidence.

These actions were part of an extensive money laundering operation involving foreign online gaming companies exploiting Indian residents. According to ED sources, Kumar, along with others like Ashish Kakkar, arrested on March 2, Keshav Sood, and Shiv Dargar, facilitated outward remittances derived from cybercrimes.

The ED alleged that the accused engaged in hawala transactions to various destinations worldwide, including the UAE, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Thailand.

During searches at Kakkar's properties last year, officials seized a significant number of incriminating documents, forged/fake IDs like Aadhaar and PAN cards, digital devices for online transactions in foreign banks, laptops, computer hard disks, and pen drives containing electronic records related to numerous Foreign Outward Remittances. Stamps from numerous Indian and foreign registered firms, as well as blank letterheads from several such Indian and foreign firms, were also found.

Kakkar and his associates allegedly established and operated multiple shell trading firms/bogus companies across India and abroad, primarily in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai. These firms were registered in the names of various employees or hired individuals using fabricated or forged documents. They were utilised for collecting, routing, and outwardly remitting the proceeds of crime from online gaming activities conducted by foreign registered gaming websites.

It's crucial to note that sending proceeds of crime out of India from online gaming violates FEMA provisions.

Kakkar and his associates allegedly devised a distinctive modus operandi involving the creation of dummy firms using forged or fabricated documents. They then used these firms for import/export activities in Special Economic Zones and outward foreign remittances against these imports to evade FEMA restrictions. The same forged documents were also used in the operations of bank accounts opened under the names of dummy companies/firms.

Sources claim that using this modus operandi, the alleged individuals operated 188 bank accounts for 167 domestic firms/companies and 110 bank accounts for 105 foreign firms/companies. Among the foreign companies, 46 were based in China, 30 in Singapore, 18 in Hong Kong, seven in the UAE, two in Malaysia, one in Thailand, and one in Mauritius. The accused allegedly retained blank chequebooks of the dummy firms/companies after obtaining or forging signatures on blank leaves.

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