Mithun Kumar Bala, 26, owns a tea stall in Goaldah, a remote village in Magura. Although a petty businessman, he has recently made a substantial fortune.
In fact, the financial condition of hundreds of youths in two villages of Magura has changed in a short time despite having no known source of income – not by any philosopher's stone, rather by cheating and misappropriation of money of bKash and other mobile financial services (MFS) subscribers.
Police said they have already received information about 135 swindlers from Goaldah and Maheshpur villages under Sreepur police station in the district who have spread their nets of deception through MFSs across the country.
According to the Detective Branch (DB) of the Chattogram Metropolitan Police, more than 100 bKash subscribers in the EPZ and Halishahar areas of the city have been victims of financial fraud between 1 and 8 June. After investigation, the police came to know that the destination of the money was some bKash numbers in those villages in Magura, 380km from Chattogram.
Mohammad Salam Kabir, deputy police commissioner (north) of the city, told The Business Standard, "Members of the fraudulent gang go to bKash, Rocket and other MFS agent shops in different parts of the country in disguise of customers. They tactfully record phone numbers written in the agent's registration book and send those to the gang members in Magura. Pretending as bKash or Rocket customer care officers, they call customers and cunningly collect the PINs (Personal Identification Number) and take their money."
Salam Kabir added that two people named Mithun Kumar Bala, 26, and Hamidul Mollah, 22, were arrested from Magura and Chattogram on Saturday and Sunday. Soon, this fancy strategy of deception came to the fore.
Hamidul has already given details about the fraud in court. The police have applied for a seven-day remand to quiz Mithun.
One of the victims of this gang, Imran, a 25-year-old farmer from Gobindaganj in Gaibandha, said he received Tk5,000 sent by his brother from Chattogram on 6 June through bKash. After a while, someone, introducing him as a bKash officer, called him and said there were two fake notes in the money deposited by his brother. So his bKash number was locked. Imran provided the caller with his bKash PIN to solve the problem and the fraudster transferred all the money from the account.
Additional Deputy Commissioner (South) Shah Mohammad Abdur Rauf said, "Following the investigation into the incident, we found several people from two villages in Magura who were involved in it. On 12 June, we arrested Mithun, the leader of the fraudulent group, from Magura. Based on the information given by him, we arrested Hamidul from Chattogram on 13 June. We have seized 36 videos containing photos of registration books of bKash agents."
The way they deceive
Abdur Rauf further said their team stayed in Magura for three days and found some makeshift shacks on the banks of ponds and in the jute fields in villages where youngsters aged 13-30 gather regularly and call people pretending to be bKash or Rocket officers.
There are seven to eight such groups in these villages. Mithun was in charge of one such shack. He said they have a network all over the country.
Sub-Inspector Rubel Barua, who took part in the operation, said, "Every time we have conducted an operation to arrest the accused, none of them was found at home – not during the day or even at night – as they spend most of their time in the shacks.
As soon as the police entered the village, they were informed by someone from their network and they managed to flee."
Sreepur Upazila Chairman Mia Mahmudul Gani told TBS, "Youths from Maheshpur and Goaldah villages do these. Their network was once huge but has now declined to some extent because of administrative action. At present, the fraudsters do not stay in the village and operate from other districts. Many residents of neighbouring Faridpur and Rajbari districts are involved with them."
He said in the last seven-eight years, he had seen at least 30 people in Sreepur who were not rich even a few years ago but now live a lavish life even though they do not have any source of income.
Sreepur Police Station Officer-in-Charge Supdev Roy told TBS, "The accused carried out the fraud outside the district. We have not received any complaints from local people."
Magura District Superintendent of Police Zahirul Islam declined to comment on the matter.