Saturday, July 15, 2023

9 detained in FIA crackdown against online loan frauds

FIA's Cybercrime Circle initiated crackdown on people providing online loans and then extorting large sums of money

Representational image. — Reuters//File
Representational image. — Reuters//File

  • Man being blackmailed by loan sharks commits suicide.
  • Crackdown to be initiated in Karachi next week, says FIA DG.
  • Online loan companies created sections called "torture calls".

ISLAMABAD: Continuing their crackdown on illegal finance companies involved in short-term online loaning, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested nine people engaged in the unlawful practice and sealed a company in Rawalpindi, The News reported Friday.

Sources within the FIA said that the authority's Cybercrime Circle initiated the crackdown on people providing online loans to those faced with extremely tough economic conditions and then extorting large sums of money from them via blackmail.

Last week, a similar incident resulted in the death of an unemployed person in Rawalpindi by suicide.

FIA Director General (DG) Mohsin Hassan Butt told this correspondent that the crackdown on illegal financing companies was initially launched in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore and would gradually be expanded all over Pakistan. 

The FIA DG said the crackdown would be initiated in Karachi next week. 

“The FIA Karachi office has been directed to complete initial preparations for the operation,” he added.

The official said that the FIA teams were verifying the registration of the financial companies with the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), and those without the registration certificate would be considered illegal.

He further stated that the SECP was the registration and regulatory authority to issue licenses to Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFC) to give loans through the online app. 

Moreover, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) coordinates with Apple and Google for the removal of illegal apps involved in micro financing in Pakistan.

“A crackdown is underway, and action will be taken if victims, who a being harassed or browbeaten by the company through loan sharking, come forward.

“The FIA is taking action against all companies which are violating the SECP regulation and those who are unregistered,” Mohsin Butt added.

Meanwhile, the FIA Cybercrime Circle raided the office of a financial service in Saidpur Road, Rawalpindi. 

According to the FIA spokesperson, Inspector Badar Munir sealed various offices of the company in the plaza.

During the preliminary investigation, the arrested accused disclosed they were given targets of call, and each accused used to make 100 to 150 calls on a daily basis. 

They also used to make calls to friends and relatives of those who had acquired loans, a spokesman for the FIA said, adding that online loan companies had created separate sections related to torture calls in their offices which were assigned tasks separately. 

The online company created sections D-Zero, D-1, D-2, DS-1, DS-2 and DS-3.

The FIA also recovered a large number of documents, computers, laptops and SIM cards during raids. 

After the arrest of the accused, further investigation was underway to get access to others.

According to the FIA spokesperson, cases have been registered against 19 accused regarding online loan apps.