Detectives have unearthed a massive plan for bank forgery undertaken by an international fraud group long-time active in Bangladesh.
Three years ago, this group had planned to secretly install chips at hundreds of ATM booths to steal huge amounts of money from the card holders of different banks.
A top level officer of Dhaka Metropolitan Police on Monday, on condition of anonymity, told Bangladesh Post that the international fraud group led by a Polish citizen named Thomas Peter had planned to install secret chips in the ATM booths to steal money. The senior officer, who was then a Deputy Commissioner of Detective Branch (DB) and now the third in command of DMP, had instructed his teams to conduct a special operation to arrest the members of the international ATM forgery group.
Additional Deputy Commissioner Md Shajahan Shaju of DB(North), who himself supervised the whole operation in the last week of February 2016, also confirmed the matter to this correspondent on Monday. He recalled that he had arrested four people including a foreigner allegedly involved in an ATM skimming scam in Dhaka.
According to him, three other local bank officials working with Thomas Peter were also arrested in this connection. He said Peter admitted his role in one of the country’s largest ATM fraud schemes. The instances of ATM card fraud in the country had forced almost all the 56 banks to take precautionary measures, including temporarily shutting down transactions through the national payment switch (NPS), to safeguard the interests of clients.
Sources said the offenders have stolen information of some 1200 cards to withdraw money by creating duplicates. ADC Shajahan Shaju who grilled the four accused including the Polish national, told Bangladesh Post that during the primary interrogation, Peter disclosed that he was about to reach a deal with some unscrupulous staff members of ATM booths manufacturers, suppliers and technical staffs involved in installing and repairing the ATM booths of different banks.
The senior DB official, however, said that the plan was not executed after the arrest of the Polish citizen along with his three local accomplices. Meanwhile, a high-level meeting was held on Monday afternoon to chalk out a master plan to resist further ATM forgery. ADC Shahidur Rahman of DB’s Khilgaon Zonal team confirmed it.
Senior officers of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit and CID were also present. ADC Jewel Rana of DB (East Division) who supervised the latest drives against ATM card forgery said, “There are different stakeholders in this vital issue of ATM forgery.” We have invited the stakeholders and experts to get their valued opinions on how to resist this criminal activities in future, he added ADC Jewel Rana, the second in command of DB’s East Division, said, “Responding to our invitation, the experts from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh Computer Samity, Bangladesh Bank and some private companies involved in setting up networks of the ATM booths, came to DB office on Monday afternoon.”
Jewel Rana however, declined to disclose the details of the discussion at the informal meeting. ADC Shahidur, whose team arrested six Ukraine nationals in ATM forgery, said, “ We have sought technical support from the experts as we are not experts enough in some technical issues regarding ATM booth functions.”
According to the sources in police, international gang of ATM forgery have already stolen huge amounts of money from three private banks. These banks are- BRAC Bank, Prime Bank and NCC Bank. However, the bank authorities are yet to admit these. Responding to a question, Jewel Rana said, “After exchanging the expertise from different stakeholders, we shall understand in which direction the investigation should go.”
Deputy Commissioner of DB of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Md Nurnabi said, that his division arrested six nationals of Ukraine in June this year in connection with ATM forgery. Earlier in March 2018, at least 49 clients of five private commercial banks had lost around Tk 2 million when a criminal gang withdrew the money from booths by using cloned debit and credit cards.
The victims were clients of private BRAC Bank, The City Bank, United Commercial Bank (UCB), Eastern Bank and Bank Asia. Both credit and debit cards were cloned for withdrawal of money from ATM (automated teller machine) booths. In April 2018, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested the ringleader of an organized gang involved in stealing money from the banks through the ATM card forgery from the city's Mirpur area.
"We arrested one Shariful Islam, 33, the mastermind behind stealing crore of money from different banks through ATM card forgery from Mirpur area on Tuesday night," special police super Mollah Nazrul Islam of CID said at the time. CID personnel also seized one laptop, 1,400 cloned ATM cards, and digital wrist watch used for stealing information of the clients from his possession. In March 2017, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested 11 persons in Dhaka for their suspected involvement in ATM card frauds.