Monday, February 25, 2008

Online air ticket fraud: ATS clueless about real culprits

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The anti-terrorism squad (ATS), which arrested eight persons in connection with an online air ticketing fraud, is yet to establish the identity of the Kazakhstan-based accused who allegedly provided credit card numbers to those arrested.

The squad, even after keeping the accused in custody for over one-and-a-half months, is yet to find out how many air tickets were booked through the internet. Moreover, since no one has lodged a complaint, the officials do not know who the victims of the fraud were. A constable himself became the complainant in the case.

The prime job of the ATS is to detect terrorism-related cases and seize narcotics and fake currency. However, this is the first time that the squad is busy probing a cyber crime.

Interestingly, the cyber crime investigation cell (CCIC) of the city crime branch is unaware of this case. In 2007, the CCIC had helped the Economic Offences Wing detect an online ticketing racket by tracing the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the accused. Generally, cases related to credit card fraud and computer are dealt by police stations with assistance from the CCIC.

This case dates back to January 3 when the ATS picked up Sameer Ansari from Dongri and seized fake Indian currency from him. Later, Ashraf Siddiqui alias Captain Ashraf and six others were also arrested. Ansari was also booked for storing obscene clippings in his mobile. The ATS officials said the accused had procured national and international cred
it card details belonging to foreign nationals from Alu, a Kazakhstan national, and booked flight tickets. The tickets were later sold at a cheaper rate. The squad, however, does not know the exact money involved in the fraud. According to the police, a file called F K Air—found in the message box of Ansari’s mobile, contained the PNR number of air tickets.

“The accused would contact Alu through his emails— and—to get details of the credit cards. They had used 15 Master cards and 30 Visa International cards. However, we are yet to find out the details of the victims who suffered loss in the last one year. We are also analysing Ansari’s 12 email IDs. We have written to several Visa and Master card companies to ask about these credit cards but no one has replied yet,’’ said an officer.

The airlines whose tickets were booked include Air India, Jazeera airline, Deccan airlines, Cathay Pacific and Al-Arabia. The accused would send money to Kazakhstan via Dubai through Western Union, the police claimed, adding that they have no record of it.

The ATS seized 10 mobiles, 10 SIM cards, two IBM and a Lenovo laptop, debit and credit cards of HDFC, HSBC and Citybank, and UTI, ICICI bank’s HP Visa card, HDFC bank’s Easy shop debit card, international debit cards, three PAN cards, identity cards as field officer of T & T company, Rs 24,000 and fake currency with the face value Rs 20,000. Moreover, the police claimed to have seized a MoserBaer CD containing clippings of WTC 9/11 attack, bomb blasts and war.

The Times of India, February 25, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Maoist menace : Urban scare

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
MUMBAI: The Maoist menace is no longer confined to the jungles. Last year, India’s financial capital got a Naxal scare. With the arrest of a few activists in August, the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) of Maharashtra police claimed to have busted a Maoist think tank, which was trying to indoctrinate and recruit people, and collecting funds for the organisation. Police believe that the Maoists are slowly and quietly making a base in the city. The police also suspect that the rebels might have some dangerous plans for the city. These fears stem from the fact that during the arrests of the suspected Maoists last year, the police recovered some detonators, a hand grenade, two firearms and 20 gelatin sticks.

According to police sources, Maoists have also articulated a new strategy to target urban centres in India, drawing up “guidelines for working in towns and cities”, and for the revival of a mobilisation effort targeting students and the urban unemployed. In 2006, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil told the Lok Sabha that Maoists were planning to target important installations in major cities, including Mumbai.

But, there is no immediate threat. “There is no armed activity in Mumbai at the moment and the Maoists have kept their activities limited to propagating their ideology, setting up secret cells for frontal organisations and recruiting people,’’ says a police sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The Maoists are trying to spread their movement among trade and labour unions, poor people and students. According to police sources, there are some 75 Maoists in Mumbai. Most of them are not active members of the banned CPI (Maoist), but they sympathise with the leftist group’s cause. “We have come across several such people and are in the process of identifying them and preparing dossiers on them,” says an officer involved in the investigation.

The police believe that the Maoists come to Mumbai to regroup. “They are using Mumbai as a place of rest, planning and recruitment. The guerrillas who get injured in encounters with the police are sent to Naxal dens in Mumbai for treatment, education and relaxation,” says the officer.

Apprehending a major problem cropping up sometime soon, the ATS is getting inputs from the Special Branch and the State Intelligence Department (SID) about the Maoists and keeping an eye on some people. “Over half a dozen lawyers are on our radar but we cannot arrest them if there is no evidence against them,” says an ATS officer.

While Mumbai may be safe for the moment, sources claim that the Maoists definitely have plans to take their war to other urban centres. The rebels, the sources add, have plans to strike in the industrial belts of Bhilai-Ranchi-Dhanbad-Calcutta and Mumbai-Pune-Surat-Ahmedabad to take their battle into the heart of India.

The Times of India, February 17, 2008