Four persons, including a Chinese national, were arrested by Cyberabad police Friday as part of its crackdown on illegal app-based instant microloan lending companies. The police raided a call centre in Hyderabad named ‘Cubevo Technology Private Limited’, whose head office, ‘Skyline Innovations Technologies India Private Limited’, is located in Delhi.
The police said they have so far identified two call centres each in Gurgaon and Hyderabad that are involved in illegal app-based loan lending. A bank account with Rs 2 crore has been seized.
Those arrested have been identified as Yi Bai alias Dennis, who hails from Jiangxi in Shanghai, along with Satyapal Khyalia of Delhi, apart from Hyderabad-based Aniriddh Malhotra and Murathoti Richie Hemanth Seth. The directors of the company, Zixia Zhang, another Chinese national, and Umapati alias Ajay, are absconding.
Speaking to the media, Cyberabad police commissioner VC Sajjanar said Zixia Zhang and Umapati have registered the company in Gurgaon and developed 11 instant loan applications.
Sajjanar said while Zhang is the mastermind, Umapati operates the bank accounts related to all the companies. Together they started Digi Peergo Tech Private Limited in December 2019 and also incorporated Skyline Innovation technology India Private Limited with the help of a Singapore-based company named Xikai Holding PTE Limited the same month. They established call centres across the country and hired tele-callers for the collection of loan amounts.
Yi Bai alias Dennis, the commissioner said, is the chief operating officer(COO) of Xikai Holding PTE Limited. He had come to India in February 2020 on a business visa and stayed back as the business development manager of Skyline. Along with Satyapal, he has been setting up call centres across India.
The commissioner further said that through these 11 instant loan apps, the accused offered loans to individuals and collected huge repayments, which include interest, processing charges, GST, default charges, and even penalty. Upon failure to repay, the defaulters are subjected to abuse, harassment, and face threats of dire consequences through executives employed at the call centres, They were found blackmailing the borrowers by sending fake legal notices to the family, said Sajjanar.
The Cyber Crime police of Cyberabad has so far registered eight cases against such digital money lending apps.
The latest arrests are based on an investigation into a recent complaint in which the complainant stated that he had taken a loan of Rs 2015 for seven days. He was given Rs 1600 after deducting Rs 415 towards GST and processing fee. An instant loan was sanctioned after the app verified his Aadhaar card, PAN card, self-authenticated photo, and bank statement for the last three months. Soon he started getting calls from similar apps. From 28 instant loan apps, he has taken a loan of Rs 1,20,000 and paid back Rs 2,00,000 with interest. Despite repayment, he has been getting threats and abuses. The police investigated the complaint and raided the call centre in Hyderabad leading to the arrests.
The apps the company operated are 1) Loan Gram 2) Cash Train 3) Cash Bus 4) AAA Cash 5) Super Cash 6) Mint Cash 7) Happy Cash 8) Loan Card 9) Repay One 10) Money Box 11) Monkey box, etc.
Explaining the operations, Sajjanar said the loans are provided either for 7 days or 15 days. On completion of the due date, the loanee is put into a bucket (S-0, S-1, S-2, S-3, M-2, M-3, X, etc).
“The lesser the bucket the loanee is in, the lesser the abusive treatment is, and abuse and harassment increases with the bigger bucket. They abuse the customers in filthy language and threaten them with dire consequences. They even go to the extent of accessing the contacts of the customers from their phone and start abusing and threatening the family members, relatives, and friends with calls and messages,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday, a police team led by Sajjanar met with K Nikhila, the regional director of the Reserve Bank of India in Hyderabad, and informed her about the misuse of online applications by Non-Banking Financial Companies(NBFC). The police are yet to find out if these 11 apps are linked to any NBFCs.
An unemployed techie, an agriculture extension officer of the state government, and a farmer from across Telangana have died by suicide in the last few days allegedly owing to harassment by instant microloan lending apps over repayment.
The Telangana DGP’s office stated that at least 60 such loan apps available on Google Play Store were not registered or recognised by the Reserve Bank of India as an NBFC and their operations were unlawful.