KOLKATA: The , which has carried out fraudulent transactions from at least 82 accounts in Kolkata over the past two weeks, is a well-organized group that used to recruit economically weak Romanian youths to carry out frauds across India.
Besides Kolkata, Mumbai, Goa, Patna, Bhubaneswar and Kohima, the gang had also fitted skimmers in ATMs in Haryana and Rajasthan, confessed the Romanian nationals Dumitru Calin and Oprea Ovidiu Simion, who were nabbed in Delhi on Friday and brought to Kolkata and produced in court on Saturday.
According to police, the footsoldiers carried out the ‘operations’ — fitting the skimmers and then withdrawing the money some days later — while a handler used to keep a close watch on them from a safe distance. Cops have got hold of CCTV footage that shows there was at least one person keeping an eye on the activity of the accused sitting in an auto parked at some distance. “There will be more people involved and we need to find the mastermind,” said a top IPS officer at Lalbazar. Cops are now questioning two other Romanians — nabbed for ATM fraud in Mumbai and currently lodged in — to find more details about the gang.
“We now have evidence that the gang had fitted a skimmer at the Canara Bank Golpark ATM on April 4. The accused took just 50 seconds to fit the device. We have identified another man who was present at the same counter at that precise time. He, of course, had no idea what the accused was up to,” said a senior officer. This person is likely to be called for a Test Identification Parade, where he may be asked to identify the accused.
Anti-bank fraud wing officers were shocked to find that the gang was using up to five PIN numbers on one plastic card. “They used one PIN to withdraw as much money as possible — either up to the maximum limit allowed per day or till the card got blocked. They then wiped out the PIN data to install another,” said an investigator.
The two accused, the probe has established, hail from Bisteta village in . While Calin is an auto mechanic, Simion is a window fitter and a part-time carpenter. Both were earning between 600-700 Euros a month when they were spotted by their recruiters. “Till recently, the accused continued to receive Whatsapp calls from registered Romanian numbers,” said a source.
While Simion arrived in Kolkata on February 19, immediately after landing in India, Calin reached a little later. The duo again landed in Kolkata on July 11 and started staying at two different hotels located close to Acropolis Mall. The two had even visited Kathmandu from here.
“At least 12-15 Romanian nationals had put up at our hotel between April and July,” said one of the staffers at a hotel. Manabendra Bardhan, manager of another hotel, said they were cooperating with cops. “The recoveries made from Hauz Khas, where the two accused had rented rooms for Rs 10,000 a month each, include 28 plastic cards, electronic gadgets like skimmers, Rs 1.79 lakh in cash and some Euros.
A section of officers thanked their luck in the manner the case got cracked. “We had CCTV footage and some technical knowledge about their location. But the fact that they never stopped withdrawing money even after the matter got blown up in Kolkata helped us nab them faster,” said an officer.
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