ED targets online gaming sites in Curacao, Malta, and Cyprus

Published on:

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has launched an investigation into multiple online gaming companies and websites incorporated in small island nations such as Curacao, Malta, and Cyprus. As reported in The Hindu, these entities are allegedly involved in cheating investors across India to the tune of at least ₹4,978 crore.

A key member of the syndicate, Punit Kumar, also known as Puneet Maheshwari, was detained upon his arrival at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport from Nepal. A resident of Delhi’s Moti Nagar, Kumar was presented before a special court and remanded to ED custody.

The ED’s money-laundering probe stems from several First Information Reports (FIR) registered in Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chandigarh, and other regions. These reports accuse the syndicate of defrauding victims through online schemes and games.

The agency alleges that Kumar devised a method of cheating individuals, using servers based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to orchestrate scams. He operated in tandem with a parallel system established in India to support the syndicate’s operations in the UAE.

Kumar had been evading ED’s summonses and probe team before his arrest, following searches conducted on his premises. Another accused, Ashish Kakkar, was previously arrested from a Gurugram hotel on March 2, 2024, and is currently in judicial custody.

Various assets, including foreign-made gold bars, cash, jewellery, high-end watches, luxury cars, and fake PAN and Aadhaar cards used for setting up shell entities, were seized during the operations. The accused also employed remote-based servers accessed through applications like Anydesk and TeamViewer to evade detection.

The syndicate cheated people through false promises of loans, returns on investments, part-time jobs, and online shopping scams. Victims who demanded refunds were coerced into paying additional amounts under the excuse of taxes or processing fees.

Kumar, Kakkar, and their associates established over 200 companies using forged documents and controlled every transaction through their associates. They used various methods, including falsely declaring imports and exports, to send funds abroad, indicating a money laundering operation.