Telangana Police Seek RBI, Others’ Help as Part of Probe Against App-based Lenders

The Telangana police as part of the probe on cases against instant app-based lenders accused of harassing borrowers over repayment have sought data from Reserve Bank and other agencies, a senior police official said on Tuesday. The police are also engaging experts for data analysis for studying the voluminous data as a preliminary investigation into the financial transactions of the online loan app firms revealed 1.4 crore transactions worth nearly Rs 21,000 crore, the official said.

Police earlier said the transactions took place over various payment gateways and bank accounts linked to these companies and a large number of international transactions have also been identified through bitcoins. Bulk of transactions had taken place over the last six months and further investigation is continuing.

“We have addressed letters to different agencies including RBI seeking data as part of the further investigation including to find out the web of financial transactions,” the official told PTI.

“On the financial transactions we received data from one of the payment gateways; we have asked two other payment gateways to give transaction details. We found out a list of the bank accounts and we are in the process of seeking that data from the banks. Information was sought on where the money came from and went to and who are the main beneficiaries who have opened these accounts,” the official said.

He further said about Rs 100 crore has so far been frozen in different bank accounts and payment gateways in connection with the 27 cases registered by Cyber Crime Police Station here against the alleged unauthorised loan apps and harassment of the borrowers by the companies running the apps through their call centres. According to police, the lending companies through instant loan apps offered loans to individuals and levied huge interest and processing charges, among others, and resorted to systematic abusing, harassing and threatening the defaulters through the call centres operating from across the country.

Reacting to a query on reports that loan disbursement was done from foreign countries and amounts loan and interest collected from the borrowers was diverted to China, the official said, “until we get data on all the financial transactions and analyse them we cannot say anything on the fund diversion.” However, as per the information collected so far the loan applications and the back-end database and operation of the applications was happening from abroad, the official said. “No servers were found in the country. From the available information we have these are cloud-based servers and they used to access them by logging on through an URL.

Mostly the servers are based outside the country to our knowledge and also operation of many of the bank accounts was happening from abroad,” he said. Police during their investigation also found that the telecallers used to “suggest” the borrowers to make the repayments of the existing loans by taking loans from other lenders and the backend staff was also given incentives after the repayment.

The customer falls into their trap by taking loans in the other loan applications as suggested by telecallers and end up paying huge amounts and get stuck in a never-ending cycle, the official said. In some cases the loan amount was credited in the borrowers’ accounts without their consent and then they were harassed to repay excess amounts.

The crackdown against instant money lending apps firms has been launched after five cases of suicides, due to harassment by such companies were reported in Telangana in the last one month. The Telangana Police has registered at least 50 cases and arrested 29 people including three Chinese nationals so far even as the Enforcement Directorate is also probing these FIRs.

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