International card cloning gang member held in Delhi

New Delhi, Feb 9 (IANS) A 25-year-old member of an international credit and debit card cloning gang has been arrested here for cheating many people across India by withdrawing money from their accounts, police said on Tuesday.

Pankaj Bhardwaj, a resident of Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, was arrested on Monday from the India Gate area in a joint operation by Delhi and Mumbai police.

“Members of the card cloning gang are spread across Dubai, Mumbai and Delhi,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Ravindra Yadav said.

Mumbai police came to know about such a gang active in Dadar area after it received several complaints from Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and some southern states that money was being withdrawn from the accounts of some people through different ATMs.

“Following the complaint, Mumbai police recently arrested a man named Nisar from Dadar when he was withdrawing money from an ATM. More than 20 cloned ATM cards were recovered from him,” the officer said.

Mumbai police sought assistance from Delhi Police when it knew that Nisar used to send cash to a man named Sumair Sheikh through a ‘hawala’ operator based in Delhi.

“We identified the local hawala operator as Pankaj Bhardwaj and arrested him,” the officer said.

Bhardwaj told interrogators that he used to receive the amount sent by Ansari and some other gang members on behalf of Sheikh, who stays in Dubai.

At the instance of Sheikh, interrogators said Bhardwaj used to buy bitcoins — a cryptographic, digital and experimental currency introduced in the digital world in 2008 — and transfer the same online to Sheikh who encashed it.

Bhardwaj used to get a handsome share from this amount, the officer said.

The value of one bitcoin is equivalent to Rs.24,633, the officer said.

“Sheikh would procure data of debit and credit cards through his sources and his associates in Mumbai cloned the cards, withdrew the money and forwarded the amount after keeping their share to Delhi through hawala for him.

“But instead of receiving the amount directly, Sheikh would ask Bhardwaj to collect the money from the Hawala operator,” the officer said.

Bhardwaj admitted to have forwarded bitcoins equivalent to more than Rs.30 lakh to Sheikh in last 4-5 months.

He recently received Rs.14 lakh from Mumbai and forwarded bitcoins of Rs.5 lakh to Sheikh. Police recovered Rs.8 lakh from his house.

Bhardwaj works at Secure Bitcoins Traders Pvt. Ltd. in Pitampura in west Delhi as an operations manager.

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