Indian cops arrest brains behind US tax scam


Facing the music: Officers escorting Thakkar to a police station in Thane on the outskirts of Mumbai after arresting him. — Reuters

Facing the music: Officers escorting Thakkar to a police station in Thane on the outskirts of Mumbai after arresting him. — Reuters

MUMBAI: Indian police have arrested the alleged mastermind of a multi-million-dollar racket in which callers posing as US officials tricked Americans into paying bogus tax bills, officials said.

Sagar Thakkar, 24, was making more than 10 million rupees (RM682,000) a day at the height of the scam, which operated for nearly a year before it was exposed last October, according to police.

Thakkar is accused of calling victims in the United States and berating them for not paying phoney tax bills, threatening them with jail if they did not cough up immediately.

He fled to Dubai after the scam was exposed but was arrested last Saturday when he flew back to India where he planned to revive his operation, police said.

“He has confessed to his crimes,” said Parambir Singh, commissioner of police in the Mumbai suburb of Thane, adding that Thakkar would face the court on Thursday.

Mumbai police in October detained more than 770 people suspected of defrauding Ameri­cans by impersonating agents from the US Internal Revenue Service and demanding payments.

The United State’s Justice Depart­ment subsequently brought to court 61 people for their involvement in India-based schemes that defrauded nearly 15,000 American citizens.

“We are extremely vigilant when the names of US government agencies are used to perpetuate fraud for the purpose of victimising so many innocent Ame­rican citizens,” US Attorney Kenneth Magidson had said in a statement.

The con artists would use altered caller ID numbers to make it appear they were phoning from the United States, and often quoted IRS badge numbers to trick their victims.

Those conned would sent money through pre-paid debit cards such as Walmart supermarket vouchers or Apple iTunes gift cards.

The scam also prompted Apple to issue a global warning against giving card numbers to strangers.

The IRS has for years warned about similar scams.

In January, the US Treasury Inspector-General for Tax Admi­­nistration said it was aware of at least 5,000 victims who had been defrauded of more than US$26.5mil (RM116.6mil) via such schemes since late 2013.

India became the call centre capital of the world in the early 2000s as foreign firms, drawn by its educated and cheaper English-speaking workforce, farmed out jobs answering customer phone inquiries. — AFP

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