The Punjab and Haryana High Court denied Anticipatory bail to a person accused of online thugee and expressed that how middle-aged or old men, who had little knowledge about the basic features of smartphones, were easy targets for such thugees.

The Bench of Justice Anoop Chitkara observed that "Besides being middle-aged or old, most victims are simple, honest, and truthful people who believe these thugs to be like them. They do not know any technology except some basic features of smartphones, and this little knowledge makes them vulnerable to cyber-thugs. Unfortunately, the maximum number of cyber criminals operate from our country, bringing a terrible name to the nation."

Advocate Devender S. Punia appeared for the petitioner and Deputy Advocate General Manish Bansal appeared for the respondent- State.

In this case, the anticipatory bail was preferred by an accused who duped a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel of Rs. 14,46,000/-. The applicant had personified himself as an official who worked for the Bharti AXA General Insurance Company and had offered loans to the complainant. The complainant fell into the trap and deposited the amounts asked by them.

The Court elaborated on the modus operandi of these call centre thugs and said that-

  • First, they get in touch with a vulnerable suspect through malicious links sent through phishing or by making calls on their numbers.
  • Second, they get access to these numbers from the dark web, where another set of criminals keep selling people's personal information, like their mobile numbers, e-mails, and even AADHAR numbers, bank account details, PAN, passport details, date of birth, etc and then interact as per a specifically designed transcript.
  • Third, after taking such victims in confidence, they would pass on the call to their accomplices by referring to them as their managers and if it is found that the victim was slipping away, they would bring in another gang member by referring them as a senior manager, who would again entrap the person.

“They work and operate in criminal conspiracy and target to siphon money from the victim's accounts. All these thugs who attend such calls or become instrumental in the cycling of the funds, prima facie, are fully aware of the motive and style of the gang's operations, which is to rob the susceptible victim of as much money as possible and continue to do so until such a person runs out of liquidity.” the Court noted.

The Court further observed that, there was sufficient evidence to connect the petitioner with the proceeds of crime and his operating as a conduit and an active member of the gangs of online thugs.

“The evidence indicates that the petitioner and his accomplices operate as online thugs. The sly way the petitioner's accomplice, in connivance of the petitioner and other thugs, conned, tricked, deceived, swindled, and defrauded the gullible complainant pointed out the dangerous indicator that the thugee has revived, and if not sternly dealt with now, it might upsurge, revisiting the history.” added the Court.

Accordingly, the petition was dismissed.

Cause Title- Mohd. Jubair v. State of Haryana

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