KATHMANDU, June 22: Police arrested a man from Thamel on Thursday for allegedly using fraudulent plastic magnetic cards to withdraw more than Rs 2 million from various Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) in the capital with the help of three Romanian ATM skimmers.
A team of officials from the theft and dacoit division of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police arrested Raj Kumar Pandey, 33, a resident of the erstwhile Piparpani Village Development Committee-7 of Bara district, from his temporary residence at Sankhamul, Kathmandu Metropolitan City-31, and presented him before the Patan High Court on the same day. The court extended the deadline of police investigation against Pandey by a week.
According to CIB sources, the ATM fraud group had been using the bank details of dozens of people across the globe to steal their money from ATMs in Nepal. “When the victims found out about the fraud, they reported to the police offices concerned and the locations of the withdrawals were traced in Nepal,” CIB Spokesperson Superintendent of Police (SP) Dipak Regmi said, “When we traced the transactions, we found out that the culprits were using Rastriya Banijya Bank (RBB) ATMs in Thamel area.” The team then used the ATM video footages in coordination with the bank and identified Pandey as the culprit.
The investigation into the case has revealed that only the ATMs of the RBB were robbed due to the bank's link to various international organizations. The CIB team which detained Pandey from his retail shop in Sankhamul also seized 12 different electronic payment cards.
The cards included a House of Fraser gift card, an Oyster card which is used for transportation in London, two plain cards of golden color, two magnetic strip fraudulent cards with inscription E 50 FOR YOU ASODA, four ATM cards of Nepali Banks belonging to various individuals and two international cards. The police team also seized Rs 686,000 in cash, two mobile phones and two laptops from Pandey's hideout.
The officers investigating the case have said that Pandey was being aided by three Romanian nationals for skimming the ATMs. “The report of the preliminary investigation shows that Pandey made contact with three Romanian nationals some six months ago,” an investigating officer at the CIB said, “He has claimed that they trained him to steal the money.” However, he has refrained from revealing their identities. Four Romanians were arrested in the past for their involvement in ATM frauds in Nepal.
ATM skimming involves stealing debit card numbers and pin numbers after attaching electronic devices with a spy camera in the booth. The data is stolen through the insertion of an illegal card reading device in the ATM. Sometimes they overlap the original keypad of the ATM with a fake one to steal the pin numbers, according to police investigators.
SP Regmi lamented the weak security system of ATMs in Nepal as the major reason behind the fraud taking place in Nepal. “While the ATM security in other nations is very difficult to bypass, the one in Nepal has been rendered vulnerable due to the failure to transition into the latest technology,” he said, “This makes Nepal an ideal destination for the ATM skimmers in Europe to withdraw the illegal funds.”