The Enforcement Directorate on Friday said it has seized funds worth ₹46.67 crore lying in various bank accounts of payment gateways Easebuzz, Razorpay, Cashfree, and Paytm.
This comes after the probe agency carried out search operations under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 at 6 business and residential premises in Delhi, Ghaziabad, Mumbai, Lucknow, Gaya and 16 other premises of banks as well as payment gateways offices in Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Bangalore in respect of an investigation related to the app-based token named HPZ and related entities.
During the search, various incriminating documents have been recovered and seized, says the ED, adding that huge balances were found to be maintained in the virtual accounts of the involved entities with payment aggregators.
₹33.36 crore was found with Easebuzz Private Limited, ₹8.21 crore with Razorpay Software Private Limited, ₹1.28 crore with Cashfree Payments India Private Limited and ₹1.11 crore with Paytm Payments Services Limited, New Delhi, the probe agency says.
ED had initiated a money laundering investigation on the basis of an FIR filed under various sections of IPC by Cyber Crime Police Station, Kohima, Nagaland.
The HPZ Token was an app-based token, which promised users of large gains against investment by investing in mining machines for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the Enforcement Directorate says.
The modus-operandi of the fraudsters was to first lure the victims to invest in the company on the pretext of doubling their investment through the app HPZ Token. Payments were received from users through UPIs and other various payment gateways or nodal accounts. Part-amount was paid back to the investors and remaining amount was diverted to various individual and company accounts through various payment gateways/banks from where partly it was siphoned off in digital/virtual currencies. After that, the fraudsters stopped the payments and the website became inaccessible.
“Investigation revealed that the HPZ token was operated by M/s Lillion Technocab Private Ltd and M/s Shigoo Technology Private Limited. M/s Shigoo Technology Private Limited was also found linked to various Chinese controlled companies. It was also revealed that various other companies were indulged in receiving funds from public on pretext of operating various apps/websites for gaming/loan/others. ED suspected involvement of M/s Jilian Consultants India Pvt Ltd, Gurugram behind various companies involved in these frauds,” the probe agency says.
One such entity, Mad-Elephant Network Technology Private Limited in agreement with X10 Financial Services was operating various loan Apps such as YoYo cash, Tufan Rupees, Coco cash etc, the investigating agency says. Similarly, Su Hui Technology Pvt. Ltd., in agreement with Nimisha Finance India had operated loan apps.
An Easebuzz spokesperson clarified that none of the parties mentioned in the ED’s statement belonged to its merchant base. "The mentioned entities by authorities were only the counterparties of the merchant, who was using our payment gateway and this merchant had been proactively identified and blocked by us much before the investigation had started, as per our internal risk and compliance process. We intend to fully co-operate with the investigation authorities, as we are committed to ensure that our business operations comply with the existing regulations," the company says.
A spokesperson from Cashfree said, "We continue to extend our diligent co-operation to the ED operations. We were able to provide the required and necessary information within a few hours on the day of enquiry. The operations and on-boarding processes of Cashfree Payments are fully compliant with existing regulations."