State police plan to approach Interpol through the CBI as they seek further details on companies hosting fraudulent loan applications
Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil with police at his Malabar Hill bungalow on May 25. Peak/Pradeep Dhivar
After the Home Secretary ordered a swift investigation into the instant loan racket, the Maharashtra Police Cyber Cell is planning to approach Interpol through the CBI, a senior source in the police department has said. Police recently learned that loan sharks are pulling strings in Nepal and the money extorted from the victims is funneled to China, state police are looking to gather more details about the foreign companies hosting the apps. Lenders, through their debt collectors, harassed borrowers, driving some of them to suicide.
A senior officer said at midday that the police would submit a report to Maharashtra’s home minister after the initial investigation into the case. They will ask the minister to seek help from the central government to involve Interpol, so that they can gather crucial information in the case. The development follows a meeting that Interior Minister Dilip Walse Patil held with a mid-day team and senior state police officers on May 25. Patil ordered the police to show the results in 10 days.
“Many foreign companies have offered cloud platforms for fraudulent loan applications and also offer cloud storage to host them. But we will not get the data from these companies because they are based overseas. Therefore, we need the help of Interpol to get the contact details of these companies like owner name, email ids, person who did the registration etc. the officer said.
Regarding cross-border information sharing of foreign-based companies, the officer said, “All countries in the world have signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to seek cross-border cooperation. To obtain crucial criminal data, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may send requests to foreign countries from which companies offer cloud platforms to these loan applications.
Thousands of victims across India have been targeted by fraudulent loan application providers. Representation photo
In accordance with the Government of India Rules (Astribution of Cases), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is the nodal ministry and the central authority responsible for seeking and providing mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. The MHA receives all such requests, reviews them and takes appropriate action. The officer said it was a long process, but “we must make a collective effort to stem the threat of loan sharks and their henchmen”. Cyber police in other states have already started collecting details of fraudulent loan applications with the help of the CBI and Interpol.
Complaints are piling up
Another Maharashtra cyber cell officer said at midday that there were more than 1,800 online complaints related to the loan scam and they were piling up since the lockdown. “Victims filed complaints online, but only two or three of them were converted into FIRs. We are ready to register an FIR, but most of the victims are either afraid to come to the police station or they don’t want to go ahead because the amount is too low. They only approach the police after the recovery goons call them,” he added.
“We have ordered all police stations in Maharashtra to register an FIR if a victim approaches with a complaint in loan application cases. We also plan to hold an advanced training session for our cyber police officers across the state,” the officer said. In a series of stories under the AppTrap banner, Midday highlighted how thugs and their debt collectors targeted their borrowers to extort money from them. Many victims said at midday that the police did not register FIRs.
“When we approached the police station, the officers told me that I had taken out the loan and therefore will have to face the consequences if I am unable to repay. This is why we are registering our complaint online. The police only accepted my letter of complaint which they put their stamp on and returned a copy to me,” said a victim from Nalasopara.
Number of complaints in the case, according to the state police