Mahbuba Akter Suma from Dhaka’s Bashundhara area became a friend of one Andrea Fabian, who claimed to be a Turkish national living in the UK, on Instagram last month.
Fabian then added Suma on WhatsApp messenger using a British number and started communicating with her more frequently.
As their friendship deepened after days of conversation, Fabian told Suma that she wanted to visit Bangladesh and that she wanted to send her some gifts.
A day after, Fabian told Suma that she had already sent a parcel in Suma’s name through a courier service and gave her the address of a website with a tracking code.
The self-proclaimed Turkish national told Suma that she had also sent £55,000, along with the other gifts.
After a few days, Suma received a WhatsApp call from an Indian number and was told that her parcel containing some precious gifts has been blocked by Indian customs and that she would need to pay Tk 70, 000 for the clearance.
Fabian then asked Suma to deposit the amount to an account of the courier company and gave an DBBL account number.
Soon after she deposited the amount, Suma received a confirmation call from the courier company and was told that she would require an anti-money laundering certificate to withdraw the amount and that the certificate would cost Tk25 lakh.
The caller also threatened Suma that they would file a case under the Money Laundering Prevention Act if she acted otherwise.
At this point, Suma realised that she was being conned.
The story above was mentioned in the statement of the case filed by Suma with the capital’s Bhatara Police Station a few days ago.
Another case was filed with the capital’s Uttara Police Station by one Shyamol Kumar Sarkar who was swindled out of Tk 45,000 in a similar method apparently by the same gang.
While investigating the two cases, Detective Branch of police (DB) has busted a syndicate that has been making Tk 70 to 80 lakh per month by deceiving people using the same trick since its inception in 2014.
The syndicate members call it a company. It has seven to eight foreigners in its top tier, whereas all the mid and lower rank officers are either drug addicts or jail returnee.
All staffers of the so-called company always dress in formal outfits and they often impersonate as custom or Bangladesh Bank (BB) officials. The company has at least 15 staffers, including a general manager and three area managers. Three of them are female.
The DB team arrested six members of the so-called company from different areas in the capital yesterday.
The arrestees are Md Kawsar, 32, Md Merazul Islam, 22, Md Sakibul Hasan, 26, Kawsar Hossain, 20, Hamim Mollah, 20, and Korshed Alam, 32.
According to DB officials, Kawsar and Korshed were arrested earlier and served prison sentences in narcotics cases.
The detectives also recovered Tk2.40 lakh in cash, a motorbike and huge numbers of credit cards of different banks from their possession, Mashiur Rahman, deputy commissioner of DB (north), told The Daily Star yesterday.
He said the gang member first send friend request to the victims on social media and then establish a close relation.
After that they send some fake photos of valuables goods and express their willingness to send those items to the victim as gifts.
Finally, they approach as either customs or Bangladesh Bank officials and demand custom duties for their gifts, said the deputy commissioner.
They opened numerous agent banking accounts where the victims were asked to deposit the money.
After withdrawing money from these accounts, at least eight foreigners, including some Nigerian nationals, used to launder the money abroad, said DB Additional Deputy Commissioner Badruzzaman Zillu, who is coordinating the investigation in this matter.
One Biplob Lashkar from Gopalganj is the boss of the con gang, he said.
Official said Biplob stays in India most of the time and that the gang members maintain their internal communication through a WhatsApp group.