Four Bulgarian Nationals who stole money from Electronic Teller Machines (ETM) of several private banks by recording and tracing depositors’ PIN numbers and data through high powered cameras surreptitiously fixed overhead within ETM booths were arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department sleuths in Mirissa, Galle earlier this week. The arrested persons belong to an international credit card fraud group who have for some time been stealing money of foreign and local depositors’ bank accounts.
The latest complaints were from a Swiss tourist and a British traveller who have on the 29th complained to Hikkaduwa Tourist Police that money from their accounts have gone missing. The British tourist has found six thousand US Dollars missing from the account.
The cache of equipment now in the custody of the CID consists of cameras and high powered lights, remote controlled electronic transmitting and recording implements, cloned Credit Cards and money. The group consisting of a leader in this international ring have been visiting teller machines in isolated locations. Their modus operandi has been to enter the booths wearing masks to prevent identification at late night, then, remove ceiling panels and install the lights and cameras. The persons engaged in the installations were arrested at Kumabalgamuwa by the CID who were on their trail when the thieves were travelling in a three-wheeler with equipment planned to be installed at a new location.
The Bulgarians’ leader was arrested in a hide out at Mirissa. Statements obtained have revealed that the Bulgarians had taken advantage of the tourist season and have commenced the scam around 06th December. Equipment recovered from a Teller machine booth in Mirissa has helped the police to view the recordings of the data. The gang has operated from a mobile vehicle fitted with receiving equipment as laptops and screens giving them access to the stolen data transmitted via Bluetooth and internet data links from the booths on a real time basis.
CID has also been able to arrest two other foreigners of this gang in Piliyandala and Galle and through them a local underworld leader based in the South who has been assisting this expatriate gang. Three members of this gang had been arrested at the beginning of the year and had been remanded. It was in remand jail that the Southern underworld leader who had been charged for murder had befriended them and obtained the details of the scam. He had then arranged through his local contacts to arrange bail money to obtain their release so that they could re-engage themselves in the scam under local underworld protection. As quid pro quo for the favour the Bulgarians have taken the local underworld members as partners in crime.
The statements with the CID further reveal that they have planned to electronically export this data to their operational headquarters in Vietnam and Thailand and further plunder money from the depositors accounts on a long-term basis. They operate by encoding the data and cloning credit cards in those countries to extract deposits. CID is trying to further ascertain if other members of this gang have proliferated this crime to other parts of the country and withdrawing monies fraudulently. Earlier some members of this gang have accessed close five million rupees from teller machines at Matara, Kundasale, Galle, Weligama, Kandy, Welipenna, Piliyandala and Ambalantota.
The investigations are continuing through a CID team consisting of the OIC of the Fraudulent Money Transactions branch Inspector B.A.N Priyadharshana and his team under the direction of Head of CID Ravi Seniviratne Senior DIG, Director CID B. R. N. Nagahamulla SSP, and ASP P. Ampawila.