In the post covid world, many countries have laid down restrictions on tourists and travellers from foreign nations. China is one of them. It has made it mandatory for non-residents coming from India and 19 other countries to get vaccinated with Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccines. Ironically, Chinese citizens can enter India without similar restrictions. The Chinese are taking advantage of this by sending in massive troops of tech-savvy illegal Chinese nationals with extensive financial wealth and resources, to India. They are performing all kinds of illegal activities, such as running back market businesses, spying on sensitive private and official information and government data, writes ANAND SINGHA.
ANY Chinese nationals have illegally traveled to India in the past few years, and are guilty of running various operations such as scams, financial frauds, security-sensitive activities, and surveillance programmes, which are posing a threat to India’s national security.
Recently, on the 2nd of June this year, Chinese nationals were found operating a nationwide syndicate alongside a few Indian fraudsters. The gang managed to dupe close to 5 lakh Indians of over Rs. 150 crores in a two-month-long operation.
So far, eleven people have been arrested by the Delhi Police, which includes a Tibetan woman and two chartered accountants (CAs) based in Delhi and Gurugram.
According to the Delhi Police, the scammers were attracting users by baiting them with promises of lucrative returns and profits. These false claims made by the gang included the doubling of their invested amount in 24 days, on an online multi-level marketing (MLM) campaign. The victims were also required to register and use their “malicious mobile applications” Power Bank and EZPlan.
Perhaps the most pressing concern is the fact that these apps required users to provide various dangerous permissions like giving access to the camera, read and write to the external storage, and access the contact details of the person, all of which pose a threat to the users’ privacy security.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police, cyber, (DCP) Anyesh Roy said, “They would create shell companies in the name of their family members, friends, and employees and then sell them to Chinese nationals for Rs. 2-3 lakh each.” The footprint of the gang can be found in Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, Odhisa, Assam, West Bengal, and Surat, he said.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, as the number of such cases in India is not accounted for. Despite the massive scale in illegal Chinese operations in India, very few of them get detected. Further, when apprehended by the security forces, the Indian government underplays the gravity of such incidents and hands them over to the Chinese authorities without raising the issue.
Though China in 2021, decided on restricting the movements of foreign nationals into their country, India continued to allow Chinese citizens to freely travel to India.
Travel for Indian nationals restricted to China as existing visas suspended
In a press conference, the Indian Foreign Ministry (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “Currently, persons from China, including Chinese nationals, are able to travel to India despite the absence of direct connectivity. However, for Indian nationals, travel to China has not been possible since last November as the Chinese had suspended existing visas.”
Bagchi further said, “In March this year, the Chinese Embassy issued a notification about facilitating visas for those taking Chinese-made vaccines. It is understood that several Indian nationals have applied for Chinese visas after getting vaccinated but are yet to be issued visas.”
There looms a sense of fear amongst the 55,000 Indian nationals who live in China. This includes more than 20,000 students who are unable to go back since the onset of the pandemic.
This tension between China and India has only escalated as the former is sending in massive troops of tech-savvy Chinese residents with extensive financial wealth or resources, to India. They are performing all kinds of illegal activities, such as running back market business, spying on sensitive private and official information, government data, etc.
These illicit activities are carried out without getting noticed by India’s presumably powerful home office, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Border Security Forces (BSF), Directorate of Enforcement (ED), state police and intelligence agencies.
A thirty-six year old Chinese national, Hun Junwe, was arrested by the BSF in the Malda district of West Bengal, recently. He was apprehended while trying to cross the India-Bangladesh border and admitted that he and his associates were running a 100-room hotel in Gurugram. He had smuggled as many as 1,300 Indian SIM cards out of India and into China, by hiding them in undergarments, robbing Indians of hundreds of crores of rupees, the police said.
He was also associated with an Indian accomplice, Pottelli Prashant Kumar, who helped him in registering a private limited company, Hut Tong Behatar Vishwa Technology, in Hyderabad. Hun also revealed that he has been traveling back and forth between India and his homeland for years.
Hun is one of many such illegal Chinese nationals who are operating in India with nefarious intent. A few of them get apprehended by the Indian security forces, but most never get caught and roam freely. Even when apprehended, these entities are not afraid as they manage to escape to their homeland, only to return later with greater resolution. Hence, the criminal malpractices continue, posing a threat to Indian national security.
The onslaught of such other cases:
In another such incident, two Chinese nationals, 38-year-old Xioa YamaoWu and 28-years-old Wu Yuanlun, were arrested by the central crime branch of the Chennai police in Bengaluru, for operating predatory instant loan apps illegally. The duo was collecting preposterous rates of interest from those who had taken loans, by threatening and harassing them.
Police Commissioner Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal, who was working on this case, said, “After working on certain leads, the team found that the addresses of these loan apps were mostly in Bengaluru. Some were in Maharashtra, Gurgaon, and Hyderabad. The team analysed the complainant’s bank account in which he had received the loan amounts and the accounts into which he had repaid the sum. It then raided a call center functioning under the name, True Kindle Technology, at HSR Layout, Bengaluru.”
The directors of the firm, who were both Indians, Promoda, 28 of Indira Nagar, Bengaluru South, and C.P. Pavan, 27, of Tumkur district were also arrested and booked alongside the Chinese nationals. The investigation team seized as many as 21 laptops, 20 mobile phones, and some documents from them.
Call Center employing 110 Indians as tele-callers’ extort money from over 25,000 persons
Aggarwal said, “Definitely more persons are involved in this offence. After taking the accused into our custody, we will thoroughly investigate the destination of the proceeds and the persons involved. We may collect inputs from other states as well.”
The prime accused in this case, Hong, has been operating from China using the DingTalk app, while the other scammers employed the use of similar apps such as MyCash, Aurora Loan, Quick Loan, Dmoney, Rapid Loans, Eazy Cash, and New Rupee, to achieve their target.
The scammers were booked for criminal intimidation, extortion, and harassment under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Charging Exorbitant Interest Act, 2003.
In December 2020, a cryptocurrency trader was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), in an Rs. 1,100-crore Chinese online betting scam. The ED had conducted multiple raids on a few companies across the country, after suspecting their alleged involvement in online betting apps and websites, which were hosted by foreign countries.
The raid resulted in the arrest of Naisar Kothari, a resident of Bhavnagar in Gujarat, under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), along with three others which also included a Chinese national.
The ED detected that a “large amount of money was being inexplicably transferred to some cryptocurrency traders based in Bhavnagar” that included Kothari.
Chinese nationals mastermind instant loan apps scam, victim hangs himself
On the 2nd of January this year, three Chinese nationals were arrested by the Telangana Police in Hyderabad, with a connection to an instant loan apps scam. The main accused in this case, Zhu Wei, a citizen of China, was operating with an alias Lambo.
The Telangana Police had detected close to 1.4 crores of transactions worth Rs. 21,000 crores. This money was also used by the scammers to run an online gambling racket. The scams were run through call centres in Gurugram, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.
They trained people who were hired and employed regularly. The employees were taught how to mentally harass and blackmail their victims, by making use of fake legal notices and documents.
An investigation was made after G. Chandra Mohan (38), a victim of the scam, had committed suicide after he had taken a loan of Rs 70,000 from 11 different apps run by the fraudsters. P.V. Padmaja, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Balanagar), Cyberabad, said, “He repaid Rs 2 lakh to these apps in installments but he was still being harassed for being a defaulter. This drove him to suicide.”
This also led to the death of two other Indians who committed suicide after they were subject to multiple harassments through phone calls and emails.
China exploits India’s vulnerability, potentially performing surveillance
Recently, the Indian Intelligence agencies working across the Line of Control (LOC) received communication intercepts which suggested that the activities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have heightened in the adjoining area. This ensued after India decided to make infrastructural upgrade on its borders with China, and indicated that the PLA is attempting to get more information on the Indian Army movements and the country’s activities.
Last year, in June 2020, the AAP government installed over one lakh Chinese CCTV cameras, which resulted in the eruption of a massive controversy as a huge security threat looms over the national capital. This happened just after 20 Indian army personnel were killed in a clash that ensued with the Chinese troops PLA, in the Galwan valley.
The cameras have been manufactured by the Chinese company Hikvision. According to the Cyberlaw experts, Hikvision’s mobile-based application which has been downloaded by thousands of people in Delhi is potentially performing surveillance on our country and is exposing the Indian national security at great risk.
Pawan Duggal, an expert of cyber law, said, “Hikvision’s CCTV cameras have been installed in various corporate and government premises. Now people are happy that they are getting feed on their mobile phones. But there’s a reason to worry because this feed is also going to China and is even potentially accessed by the Chinese army.”
India, an abode for illegal migrants from adjoining countries
India is seen as a country that is easily susceptible to manipulation and control, with inadequate laws to protect its citizens. China very well knows how to exploit the loopholes in the country’s system with India’s weak immigration policy being one of them. The punishment for this is not quite grave, creating a vacuum for the required checks and balances.
This however has led to an exponential increase in the number of illegal migrants in India, in the last few decades. The official recorded number being close to two 2 million immigrants, which accounts for one of the highest numbers of immigrants in any country. However, the figures can be very misleading, and may actually be many times larger.
India has seen a huge influx of illegal migrants from its neighboring countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, China and Myanmar.
Many countries around the globe see India as a hotbed for drug trafficking, money laundering, and prostitution. People from countries like Nigeria, Thailand and other Asian nations migrate to India in an attempt to indulge in such illegal activities.
But perhaps even with prevalent issues like these, the Chinese nationals illegally migrating to our country is far more serious as it exposes India to a big security threat. A risk even greater than the Chinese soldiers in the borders, as these civilians enter into the country’s ecosystem, and feast on the roots from inside out.
These issues of fraudulent scams run by the Chinese nationals on Indian citizens not just pose a security and privacy concern, but also traumatise a person’s mental health. It can financially cripple a victim, and the devastating losses incurred can bring him massive debts. Often, the victims are too ashamed and embarrassed to talk about getting scammed online, and end up dealing with it on a personal level. This can cause depression, and may also lead to them attempting suicide, as some cases have shown.
(Anand Singha is from the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune and is an intern with The Leaflet. The views expressed are personal.)