Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query crime. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query crime. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


By Bibhu Prasad (Guest Writer)

It is important to bust a myth reinforced by the generic expression of despair that Delhi has turned into a crime capital of India. In terms of number of crimes registered per 100,000 residents, Delhi, a city of 16 million people, is not the worst city in the country. India's smaller cities are far worse affected and contribute significantly to crime numbers. 

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Immigration Jeopardy: Separating Fact From Fiction


The immigrants are coming, and several Republicans vying for the presidential nomination are arguing that the U.S. may be in jeopardy. We should repel immigrants by building walls along the Canadian or Mexican borders, some suggest. If elected, New Jersey governor Chris Christie promises to track immigrants the same way FedEx tracks packages. We must expel those already here through mass deportations, says Donald Trump. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said recently about Mexican immigrants.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Crime Shows Making The Society Better Or Worse Place?

By Aditya Nakrekar / Mumbai

When Crime Patrol planned an episode on Delhi gangrape, debates were raised on whether it should be aired or not. We wonder if the reality-based crime shows on TV are building a better society or they are instiling fear in vulnerable minds. 

Starting with Crime Patrol (Sony TV) in early 2000s, Indian TV now has a number of crime-based shows and some of these like Savdhaan India –India Fights Back have maintained a decent TRP. Should we have censorship on the kind of detailed-criminal incidents being shown in our faces, uncensored in our drawing rooms?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Are Hyderabad Cops Tech-Savvy?

Still Working With Obsolete Software, Ill-Trained Staffers. Imagine this. A bunch of men with boredom written large on their faces staring blankly into shabby and outdated computers dotting a poorly-lit room. Decorating the corners of this ‘hole in the wall’ are stacks of either broken-down CPUs (central processing unit) or dust. Barring lunch-time, there is always a dull moment here. Wondering just what this is? It is the city’s much-important cyber crime police station in Nampally. Armed with obsolete software and ill-trained staffers, it’s not surprising that the success rate of this branch (in solving cyber 
crimes) is an abysmal 40% or less. 
It is also not tough to gauge why today’s crop of tech-savvy criminals, with access to faster processors and new-age systems, have flooded the virtual world and think it’s child’s play to beat the law or its custodians at this ‘online game’. The city office is ridden with dysfunctional.  A visit there revealed that a dozen officers (roughly) do not even have access to an UPS system or generator to keep their computers up and about during the routine power cuts. 

Worse, the room has no airconditioning facility (considering it is a must in a room with multiple computers) or even respectable desks and chairs for the cops. 
Through candid chats with the staff there, during their daily ‘break’ (read: power cut), the following facts came to light: Their systems were still running on Pentium 3 (produced from 1999 to 2003) and Pentium 4 (2000 to mid 2008) processors. The Random Access Memory (RAM) which contributes to the computer’s speed ranged from 512 MB (megabytes) to a maximum of 1 GB (gigabytes) and their latest operating systems were Windows XP for which Microsoft has declared that support will end early next year (Windows XP Service Pack 2 was already unsupported in 2010). 

“If they are really using systems with these configurations, they are at least five to six years behind the majority of the people using computers,” said K Shubham, security advisor to a city-based website. “The latest core i7 processor can perform the same task twice or three times faster than a Pentium 4. Also, a 512 MB of RAM may take days or even weeks to decrypt any encrypted data or graphic,” he said, adding that police cells specialising in cyber crime must have the latest technologies as they often require to intercept and decode such classified data for cases. 
“Outdated systems are not the only hurdle, lack of understanding with other countries and 
procedural delays too cause several hindrances in the investigation,” the source said. “Certain servers in USA do not cooperate when it comes to revealing IP addresses citing reasons like violation of privacy laws. In such cases, we have to appeal to the court there for a subpoena (a writ requiring appearance in court to give testimony) routed through the FBI which takes a minimum of two years,” the former officer added. 
Further, the source explained that certain servers in China and Russia were being used to forge IP addresses which have complicated things further. What’s added to the mess is the use of ‘dynamic IP addresses’. For example, a computer at a certain company that possesses IP addresses from 1 to 100 will keep changing every day, depending on the time the ‘user’ of the system logs on to it. 
Unprotected WiFi too is an obstacle. In fact sources confessed how this had proved to be a serious riddance in trying to locate the computer used for a crime, on a campus with hundreds of systems and an open Wi-Fi. “The government should invest on upgrading the software regularly. Annual training and workshops for the staff too are required,” an expert said. 
Officials at the Central Crime Station (CCS) however, maintained they were performing their duties efficiently with the available systems. “This department is very dynamic and changes almost daily. To upgrade on a daily basis is not possible. So we have to do it periodically,” said L K V Ranga Rao, deputy commissioner of police, CCS. 
  • Officers do not have access to an UPS system or generator 
  • The room has no air-conditioning facility or proper desks and chairs for cops 
  • Systems still running on Pentium 3 and Pentium 4 processors 
  • RAM ranged from 512 MB to a maximum of 1 GB 
  • The latest operating system was Windows XP 
  • Unprotected WiFi too is an obstacle
Too few cops to fight cyber criminals
While criminals are increasingly becoming tech savvy, the police department do not seem to be in sync with the changing times. The city police have just three cyber crime police stations, despite white-collar offences increasing by the day. 
While addressing the media at the customary annual briefing in December 2012, director general of police (DGP) V Dinesh Reddy had said that in the wake of increasing cyber crimes, theywould soon open cyber crime police stations in Vizag, Vijayawada and Tirupati, apart from bolstering the strength of the force in the city. Nearly three months after the announcement, the proposal to initiate specialised police stations is still on paper. 
Currently, there are three cyber crime police stations in Hyderabad. There is a separate cyber crime station in each of the city commissionerates, while the third one, at the Crime Investigation Department (CID), has jurisdiction over the entire state. 
In other words, except Hyderabad and Vizag, there are no specially-trained staff to handle cyber crimes in other districts and due to this several white-collar cases go unreported or their investigation does not yield desired results. 
Cyber crime police are currently dealing with complaints pertaining to cyber stalking, identity theft, hacking, source code theft, defamation of individuals and companies. Among the three police stations, CID’s Cyber Crime unit has the state-of-the-art ‘Digital Investigation Lab’. Even though they have jurisdiction over the entire state, CID police are currently not registering complaints from Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam as these cities have specialised local units to handle cyber crime cases. 
The cyber crime police stations take up investigation, while crucial prevention job (cyber world surveillance) is done only by intelligence department sleuths among the state police. They keep tabs on suspicious email accounts and screen cyber traffic for communication between criminal and terror elements. As there are not enough cyber crime experts in the state, there is an urgent need to train more police personnel in the field.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Delhi Gangrape Case: Reducing Juvenile Age Is Pointless, It's Sheer Media Trial

Nothing, said a science fiction writer, is always absolutely so. Yesterday, responding to a question on reducing the age of juveniles from the existing 18 years to 16, Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir pointed out that only Parliament, and nobody else, could take such a decision. Warning against trial by media, the CJI termed it “a matter of grave concern” and emphasized that cases “should be left to the courts to decide”. He was almost entirely right.

Of course, it is ultimately Parliament’s prerogative which law or amendment it wants to enact. But the media, or any citizens’ group or individual, has every right to lobby for any legal reform it feels necessary. Trial by media in a case, on the other hand, infringes on the exclusive domain of the court. But we also remember quite a few high-profile cases which were reopened only after the media had got into the act. The downside, however, is that media can never follow millions of pending cases and anyway justice should not be seen to be hinging on its preferential intervention.

But the issue of lowering the age of juvenile is a little more complex. There are two principal justifications for according certain legal concessions to an underage person. First, the accused may not be mature enough to fully comprehend the gravity or the consequence of a crime. Secondly, an underage accused is still impressionable and has a far greater chance than an adult to change for the better.

Globally, the age limit for juveniles (read legal maturity) varies from 16 to 18. In a few places, such as Washington, it depends on the nature of the crime. Many argue that juveniles accused of adult crimes – such as murder and rape —should be treated like adults. In England, juvenile courts do not, as a rule, deal with homicide and are free to send cases of rape to the Crown’s Court. Similarly, most states in the USA treat murder as an adult crime and juvenile courts often transfer cases of severe offences committed by juveniles to regular courts.

While certain homicides — killing of an abusive father by an underage son or daughter, for example — can potentially draw our sympathy, rape is always considered too adult a crime to allow any concession for the juvenile accused. Indeed, the USA’s Centre for Sex Offender Management estimated that juveniles were responsible for 20 percent of all rape and 50 percent of all child molestation cases. Globally, several studies indicate a gradual rise in serious crime committed by the adolescent over the last four decades.

We have not invested much thought in understanding what is turning so many of our very young to crime. Instead, involvement of a 16-year-old in a gruesome rape has made many of us demand that the juvenile age be lowered to 16. Will we press a fresh demand tomorrow if a 13-year-old is caught in the act? The question is not hypothetical because 1300 or more than 5 percent of those arrested for rape in the USA in 2006 were under 15 years. Where will we draw the line? Or are we better off demanding different juvenile age-limits for different crimes?

The argument that only a fraction of those coming from poor socio-economic background or troubled homes take to crime, and hence cannot be shown any mercy, may make sense in the context of adult criminals but not juveniles. But our reluctance to address the issues that push so many underage to crime not only undermines the chances of crime prevention but also of subsequent criminal reform.

The preferential treatment of underage offenders is aimed at giving them a chance to reform. Proper handholding and guidance can have that sobering influence on these young ones. Since most of them do not have a family, or a healthy family atmosphere, they can be sent back to, the onus is on the state to provide them education, healthcare and, most importantly, a home-like atmosphere where a community feeling may revive their interest in the positives and possibilities of life.

Instead, underage offenders are dumped at juvenile homes that have become one of the most fertile breeding ground for hardened criminals. It is anybody’s guess how many juvenile delinquents took their first lesson in crime as orphans or runaway or rescued kids in these homes or shelters where they are routinely subject to sexual and other forms of assaults. By which yardstick should we judge their conduct when they manage to escape these hell-holes and return to society? Whatever be the juvenile age, what purpose does that preferential legal treatment serve when these kids are sent back to the same juvenile homes?

Irrespective of what the CJI feels, we have every right to debate and lobby for the best legal provisions that we feel may secure our society. But that does not mean the media can pretend to be delivering justice. That is the job and responsibility of the court. Similarly, the demand for altering the juvenile age may not significantly impact crime rate unless we consider the very purpose of legal concessions to minors. If we can’t give underage offenders a chance to reform, if they are anyway doomed to a lifetime of crime, how does it matter if they are hanged as adults when they are 18 or 14?

Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Mandela -- Global Statesman And Peace Icon

By M H Ahssan | INN Live

Nelson Rohlihlahla Mandela, anti-apartheid activist, joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and the first President of South Africa to be elected by a truly democratic election, died peacefully and surrounded by his family members at his Johannesburg home on Thursday evening, local time. He was 95.

His life, more than any other, has come to symbolise the struggle for racial equality and self-determination of the diverse peoples of South Africa and the African continent: beginning with his early childhood in the remote region of the Transkie, his gradual entry into politics as a young lawyer, the 27 years of imprisonment at the hands of white supremacists, and his triumphant return to freedom as a man who, in his own words, sought the middle ground between “white fears and black hopes” in one of the most segregated modern societies in the world.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


The vagabond scrounges for meaning under the haze of neon lights, the well-worn furrows on his face primed and stark for the next battle of survival. The halogen swirls in a surreal, dank dream.

The shadows of a murky Mumbai lose themselves in the alleys and the brooding darkness doesn’t let you see what lies a few feet ahead. And Aamir Khan in Talaash prods and pokes at the fringes, digging out the unpretty side and thrusting it into popular mainstream consciousness.

Talaash, while executing the clichés of the film noir tradition, has a righteous cop questioning not only his own beliefs and shortcomings, but also peeling the humane layers behind the complexity of crime. If he had not been more discerning of his choices in saving his child, he had no authority to rail at the hardball choices of others borne out of their lesser privileged circumstances in life or their lack of ability. And therein lies the struggle to accept his flaw with theirs. Coming as it does after Kahaani, the other film that stripped the genteel veneer of an intellectual Kolkata, disembowelling its bugs and beasts, the underbelly is not only dominating our films but percolating to the popular drawing room space of television.

Weekend prime time bands, so far confined to the Karan Johar-isation of a relaxed mindspace, are now beginning to revel in gore and grime. And the fact that it made it to the `100 crore club and crime shows are scaling the ratings graph, it seems that the city underbelly has indeed become what NYU Professor Aurora Wallace recently likened to macaroni and cheese, the new “comfort food of television”. Or as filmmaker Anurag Kashyap puts it succinctly, “Throw away the warm duvet. Take off the skin and see the turmoil of emotions beneath, the tangle of messy heads and unfulfilled expectations that we so wish to hide under the carpet. Look at the failures because of our egoistical pursuits, our indulgence of the ugly.”

What is with this obsession with the macabre, this almost self-crucifixion of sorts on popular space and not some rap-venting at an alternative music concert? Sociologically speaking, the myth of the big city shimmering as a backdrop has ceased to represent highs in a globalised world. The idealistic struggle to chase rainbows has finally taken its toll, extracted too steep a price and left one wounded. Some have made it in the big city, others have reconciled to their migrant lot while yet others have been defeated and condemned to the hook or crook means to an end. The tussle for a new India has divided the self, exploited it and fuelled a bestial resurrection against odds. The moral fabric is frayed and flawed.

There is no room for oscillating between extremes, city life has perched itself on binary axes of neo-excellence and decay. These ideas have informed popular literature from time to time and have now invaded the mainstream. The abnormal and misbegotten, the chawls around the high class districts of Mumbai, the labyrinthine coldness of a Bob Biswas in Kahaani, the horrid stories of a deformed mind on Crime Patrol are all metaphors for a Mr Hyde co-existing on the same plane as the gentlemanly Dr Jekyll. Evil, too, has a next door neighbourly face, living a smooth life off it.

This acceptance of the war within society to push the city’s limits to the maximum has finally spilled over its popular tools of expression, films and TV. Celebrity chef Vikas Khanna, who has journeyed from a village in Punjab to setting up the Junoon restaurant in New York, has himself wrestled with the warts of a big city alongside his two club feet. “I believe the best expression comes from suppression. Take the literature and art of post-War Europe to understand the depths of the human condition, the cynicism, the desperation and the will to tide it along. For far too long we have lived in brackets. Finally, the time has come to break those barriers... this is happening in films, TV and even food. Street food and community platters are even making it to the high end eateries.”

Kahaani story writer Advaita Kala talks of the counterfoil approach. Says she, “The whole noir tradition got some attention in literature and has moved to film, which is an often noted transition. I think the audience is over being feted by stylised sets. I think the nineties and the representation of a ‘photo shopped’ India was a possible reaction to the socialist India of the recent past and the visual drabness of it. I think we are now in a space where we can deal with the reality of our cities. I think human psychology has a tendency to veer towards the macabre, it’s what makes us slow down while passing a vehicular accident on the road. Curiosity for the macabre, the forbidden. When done well, it can be art and even entertaining.”

Explaining the underbelly premise further, she adds, “Crime has always been a popular subject in films. I think there is a certain cleverness that is needed when plotting a good crime thriller, staying one step ahead of the audience, unlike a romantic film, in which you carry your viewer with you on an emotional wave.” Perhaps it is this cleverness which has been permeating the urbanscape as an edgy subculture that has come to the forefront. The raw, deviant and the manipulative mind is finally out. As Kashyap said before the release of Gangs of Wasseypur, “I didn’t glamorise crime or criminals as an exotic indulgence of the upper class vision of how the underbelly is, I present crime from a human level, making the viewer himself analyse the real outcome of crime. I present reality and make you think on the subject.”

Not only that, the urban underbelly is becoming quite the grosser. While filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee moved from tugging at the subliminal in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye to the gruesome excesses of Love Sex Aur Dhokha and an upturned middle India in Shanghai, all at a profit. Kahaani and Talaash made it to the crore club. Vishal Bhardwaj took Shakespeare to heartland India in Omkara while Anurag Kashyap took Wasseypur’s eccentricities and grammar to Cannes.

Distributors now say that what was once a niche business in multiplexes — these making about 0.06 per cent of the 12,000 screens in the country — is contributing 38 to 40 per cent of box office revenues.

And if films have showed the way, television has completely broken new ground. Sony TV experimented with urban crimes in a docu-drama format over the largely unclaimed entertainment band of the weekend. Its CID continues to run in its 15th year and notched up a TRP of three till the last TAM reports came in. The newsy Crime Patrol notched up 2.7 points and Adalaat 1.7. Vipul D Shah, the producer of Crime Patrol, says: “When we started the show, our focus was on humanising the news around us. Drama and entertainment has to be part of anything on small screen, so we cashed in on the emotional and human aspects. We concentrated on storytelling and the TRPs shot up. Reality always had a recall value.”

Sony’s pioneering move was followed by rival channels across age groups, each show notching up ratings decent enough to sustain itself. Zee’s Fear Files, treading the unexplained and spiritualism a la Talaash, scooped up 3.6 points, while Savdhaan India on Life OK and Shaitaan on Colors inched closer to the analysis of the criminal mind. “It’s been the year of clones. Our commitment to creating original, differentiated content over weekends has spawned an entire range of such shows across channels.

We take imitation as a form of flattery and try to stay ahead with our commitment to characters, originality and quality,” says Vivek Bahl, chief creative director, Sony. The youth Channel V broke complete format with Gumraah, probing how urban youth are grossly waylaid by their own twisted beliefs. “We are not just retelling the crime, we go into the psychology of it. Maybe this show helps them talk about issues which would have already been swept under the carpet. We are building awareness in that sense,” says Prem Kamath of Channel V.

Suffice it to say that serious production houses, with entire teams dedicated to research and choosing cases juicy enough to be told in the drama format, often cannot put a finger on what works in this novella-like approach. For some, it’s the conflict of the good and the bad, the thrill of who will be the greater kill and the resolution — all elements of great drama and storytelling. For others, there is a sort of finality in a case closed under an hour compared to the much awaited justice in the real world.

Most though find the characters fascinating. They wonder why people like them or even those well placed in life are driven to heinous crimes and murder. “Everybody wonders why an average clerk would kill his wife and keep her body in the freezer, why would somebody poison his own children, why would the moneyed be perverse in his excesses, why a teen rapes an old woman or an old man abuses a child. Often it’s more about the possibility of flawed relationships in a society that’s tensile strength is being challenged by constantly changing circumstance, be they social, economical, cultural or political,” says a creative head.

Shows make a connect only because they focus on the emotional impact on victims and relatives. It’s more about the jealousies, the disappointments, the alienation of people and the hitback born out of these insecurities. In a way the belly-up approach essentially means coming to terms. And that, as some creatives say, is cathartic. Apparently a leading broadcaster is already making plans to launch the country’s first crime-only channel along the lines of Fox Crime and has approached filmmakers Kashyap, Banerjee and Nishikant Kamath to make pilots. Anil Kapoor is taking on the terror threat in our cities in the Indian adaptation of the hit series 24.

There is a moral debate raging on the ethics of bombarding TV with violent imagery, particularly at a time when news television is flooding the same in our minds day in and day out. “I do not think the growing crime spiral in our society is responsible for these shows or raking up the underbelly is atavistic or altruistic. If not anything, it opens up our mind to triggers that could explode anytime. What we are doing is building a sensitivity index. Our show is not premised on the bad or its horrific dimension, it is about how the usual can morph into anything. It’s about understanding, not moralising,” says Shah.

If at all we are raising the ethical question, it has to be that as a viewer we are most often lulled into believing that violent crimes are for a certain class, a certain mindset, a vicarious pleasure in the fact that while we peep into lives of others, that life can never touch us. Popular media is just shaking us out of this misplaced idea and projecting the criminal mindset as lurking everywhere. As a creative says, “Keeping the blinkers on isn’t fair or ethical either.”

Kala, nevertheless, talks about the need for caution, “Drama is an integral aspect of storytelling, nobody wants to read an accident report or a FIR. One has to populate it, dare I say manipulate it or use the convenient ‘creative licence’ to engage the viewer. But it can’t be ridiculous, and it often is.” The need for a creative balance is further highlighted by the fact that, as Kala says, “nobody is writing good crime thrillers. And there is enough crime in our everyday lives unfortunately, we are not easily surprised anymore by excesses.” The oddball mind is the new superhero, a product of its time, engaging and entertaining in equal measure. Kala should know.

Vidya Balan may have avenged her loss with the help of clerical cops in Kahaani but it is the potbellied, mulish Bob Biswas with an outdated gun and a menacing push, whom advertisers are lapping up. He may be making his money as a hired assassin but he also owns real estate and could be your next landlord or neighbour. Hey, he is now online too.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Exclusive: Bangalore To Get 'Cyber Lab' To Tackle Crime

By Khaja Pasha / Bangalore

Conviction rate in city, which tops the country in the number of cyber crime complaints, is zero. In six months, Bangalore will have its own cyber lab. With technical help and support from the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Thiruvananthapuram, the lab will focus on analysing cyber forensic data, said FSL Director (in-charge) and Additional Commissioner (Traffic and Security) B. Dayanand.

 Dayanand said an MoU was signed with C-DAC a fortnight ago. The cyber lab will be the only one in the State, and will be supplemented by six proposed cyber crime police stations.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Phishing, A New Crime in Plastic Card Frauds

In the first week of January, J.M. Gugnani, a 66-year-old independent consultant, got a series of messages on his phone, informing him that transactions were taking place on his credit card in Islamabad. When he added up the many small transactions that were swiped, Gugnani was stunned to discover that he had “spent” 2.5 lakh in Pakistani rupees (about Rs 1.36 lakh). There were two problems, tho­ugh: the credit card was firmly tuc­ked in his wallet; and Gugnani had never ever been to Pakistan. He’s based in Gurgaon, near Delhi. “Initially, I didn’t realise it was Pakistani rupees. I was shocked more because it was not an online transaction; a card had been physically swiped there,” he says. After a few rounds of investigations and verification of his passport, his bank—ICICI Bank—blocked the card. Last week, Gugnani received a formal communication from the bank saying that the “dispute” had been resolved in his favour.

Not everyone is as lucky. It doesn’t always end well. Since January 2013, Mumbai resident Shailesh Ghai has been running from pillar to post trying to reverse three online fund trans­fers that took place on his bank account without his knowledge. His account, now Rs 15,000 short, was hac­ked and the funds transferred to ano­ther account in three separate transactions over a week. His big mistake: responding to an e-mail that tricked Ghai into revealing his password (something called phishing). Although Ghai was quick to inform the bank, he’s yet to receive a reply on the status of his funds. Ghai hasn’t had much luck with the cyber crime cell either although a formal complaint has been filed with them. And he’s still deciding whether he should knock on the doors of the consumer courts or write off the whole experience. Simply put, Ghai is no longer sure he’s comfortable using internet banking anymore.

These are not isolated cases; they mark a growing epidemic of e-fraud in the country. Increasingly, banks are being bombarded with complaints reg­arding fraudulent internet banking transactions, ATM cards being misused, and debit and credit card data being hacked or swiped for domestic and international transactions. As more and more Indians try to muddle their way through the maze of cyber and electronic banking transactions, e-thieves are always one step ahead of them. According to national cyber crime estimates, credit card frauds, phishing, hacking into accounts and so on are on the rise and increasing at an alarming rate of 30 per cent in India.

“In the past seven to eight months, we are noticing a rise in phishing complaints in net banking or e-commerce in India. Another common complaint is identity theft, done by copying the data from the card’s magnetic strip, usually at shopping outlets,” says Uttam Nayak, group country manager, South Asia, Visa. Last year, the two largest payment processing firms—Visa and Master­card—suffered a massive online data breach of 1.5 million card details in North America. “Although frauds in India are on the rise, it is still one of the lowest impacted countries globally because of stringent Reserve Bank of India guidelines,” adds Nayak.

Well, in the last six months alone, there have been numerous instances of huge amounts being skimmed (where the magnetic strip of the card has been copied). Most recently, unauthorised transactions of an estimated Rs 30 crore have affected all the top card-issuing banks, including ICICI, HDFC, SBI, Citi­bank and Axis Bank. Senior banking sources told Outlook that it was suspec­ted that many of these online international tra­nsactions might have taken place thro­ugh cloning or skimming of data at key department stores and fast food joints.

Sure, India is still a nascent market as far as internet penetration goes—but the growth rates are astounding. Mobile banking, for instance, has grown by over 60 per cent in April-December 2012. Cash still dominates banking but the growth of electronic transactions is over 40 per cent. And yes, banking is not isolated to singular devices or technologies any longer. There is a greater push by bankers, regulators and even the government to move towards electronic payments. “It is alarming to see the number of cases that are coming to light and clearly a cause for concern. As the number of transactions increases, the sense of security in these transacti­ons needs to go up rather than diminish,” concedes A.P. Hota, MD and CEO, National Payments Corporation of India.

If the numbers look small right now, that’s also partly because there’s massive under-rep­orting of cases. Apart from the monetary loss, victims often have to face a lot of harassment at the hands of the police—and more often than not from the bank’s dispute redressal cells—in the process of filing a complaint. Gugnani, for instance, had to go through several rounds of investigations and verificati­ons—on phone as well as in person and examination of his passport and whether he had a Pakistan visa or not. Says Apar Gupta, cyber law expert, “In many cases, the cost of litigation is higher than the cost of the transaction. So it acts as a deterrent and many don’t go for litigation at all.”

Central government employee Sum­edha Nagpure, 35, is one such harassed soul. For the last three years, she has been fighting a futile battle in trying to recover the Rs 69,000 in arrears she ear­ned out of her Sixth Pay Commission in 2010. In February 2010, an SMS alert told her that the money had been withdrawn from her Bank of India account through an ATM and transferred to another account. Police complaints have been filed, the bank has come in but failed to investigate the issue and even her own lawyer has little hope of winning the battle in the consumer court. Three years later, the Rs 69,000 dent in her hard-earned savings still pinches.

All this growing consumer angst has forced the government to answer many questions in Parliament. Recently the banking regulator has introduced new guidelines to ensure that limits are set on domestic and international card spending (see graphic on the impact). “The regulator is wary and concerned, but honestly one needs to step back and examine whether greater systemic regulation is the solution here,” maintains a former senior RBI official. Most experts in the field, whether on the banking or investigation side, agree that this is one area of crime that will evolve at an extremely rapid rate.

“There is no call for physical presence while committing the crime. And that makes it the perfect low-risk, high-profit crime these days,” says Niket Kau­shik, additional comm­issioner of police (crime), Mumbai. All over the country, cyber crime cells are cropping up and special training to officers in cyber forensics is being provided, he adds. It is a jurisdictional nightmare though. T. Krishna Prasad, additional DG, CID Cyber Crime, Hyderabad, says 40 investigating officers in Hyderabad are working in the cyber crime section. “But we are working on training off­icers in districts too and increasing the statewide strength to 200,” he adds. Calcutta too set up a cyber cell in 2011, yet has been grappling with an increasing number of cyber crimes.

“Most of the recent cases that have emerged involved international transactions emanating from countries like the US, UK, France. Once we track down the initial trails, we get stuck in following up the leads due to international laws and jurisdictions,” Kaushik adds. There has been a good success rate in apprehending culprits within domestic laws; but not so when there are cross-border transactions. Custo­mers then have to depend on resolving the issue via the banks or consumer courts.

So who bears the brunt of the blame? The easy answer would be to assign equal blame to all the players—regulators for not implementing regulation; bankers for not having enough safeguards; consumers for not being resp­onsible enough. Indeed, many banking and payment experts Outlook spoke to believe that the RBI guidelines are fair and stringent. Cyber law experts, on the other hand, say it’s not the law or regulation that is lacking—it is the implementation of the law that is the problem. The punishments and penalties involved need to be far more stringent in the case of errant banks who don’t adhere to norms as well as criminals who are apprehended by the law. “In a nascent market, you cannot afford to cut corners and put the burden on the consumer. Technology has to be accessible and convenient to the customer and it is up to the banks and regulator to ensure that happens,” says the former senior RBI official.

Of course, as with any case involving money, there is often another side. “It’s not fair to say that there is no redressal system in place. Many times consumers also misuse cards themselves and the system does have a mechanism to protect consumer interests,” says Bejon Misra, Consumer Voice. A key problem is that the customer is liable till the stage of reporting. Clearly, it’s no longer enough for customers to sit on the sidelines. Misra believes in increasing e-literacy. He feels there can be greater prevention if consumers get more proactive in understanding what is involved and how they can protect themselves. It makes sense for consumers to be scared—that’s the only way they will survive the onslaught from the e-thieves.

How You Can Get Conned

Phishing or Spoofing: You get e-mails that look similar to ones from banks, office, e-commerce websites or institutions you regularly interact with. Some ask for verification of credit card or bank account data, or a date of birth. You reply, thieves use the precious data.

Vishing & Smishing: Phishing via voice or SMS. You get a call from someone pretending to be your bank exec with an offer or for verification (usually DoB). The calls are designed exactly like a bank’s automated voice system.

Skimming: Obtaining a person’s card details by photocopying transaction receipts or swiping a card using a “card copier” that stores user data. Often this kind of theft works in collusion with people handling cash at shops, hotels and restaurants.

Carding: To check validity of a stolen card before it is blocked. Initially used by thieves for a small initial purchase; if that goes through, used for big amounts. A Delhi exec’s card was used to buy a Facebook app for $1 and later for goods worth $850 and $4000 in the UK.

Cloning: Creating duplicate cards by using easily available, inexpensive technology and machines. These cards are then used for transactions or online.

Application fraud: Opening bank accounts in someone else’s name by using either fake or stolen documents like utility bills

Account takeover: Taking over a person’s bank account by using fake or stolen documents and signatures and appearing as the account or card holder. Often these documents are also used to change addresses of a bank account and transfer funds. False reports of lost or stolen cards too are filed and requests made for replacement cards/passwords.

BIN attack: Thieves get one good, valid card, then generate card numbers by changing the last four numbers using generator software/machines. This is possible because credit cards are produced in Bank Identification Number (BIN) ranges. In most cases expiry dates of the cards are also in a series.

Mail redirect: Thieves intercept or hack into e-mails and redirect them to their own account. They then redirect password reset e-mails to their own acc­ounts and break in to operate a person’s account.

Quantum breach: Normally users and banks set alerts for transactions over a set limit, mostly Rs 5,000. Thieves use bank account passwords or credit/debit cards for amounts below that and for several purchases so that detection is not immediate via alerts and seen only in monthly statements.

Remedies: What new RBI norms (valid from June 30, 2013) will do

Restrict card to domestic usage unless you have made specific arrangements
Impact May help curtail misuse of cards or information internationally; will be cumbersome for frequent fliers; banks unhappy about additional process

Conversion of existing cards to EMV chip cards for customers who have used their cards internationally

Impact Expected to provide greater security
Threshold limits for international usage based on risk profile and usage of customer. Common threshold limit for cards that have never been used internationally before
Impact The customer will have to be more proactive in determining limits and keeping track of them

Banks to ensure that terminals at merchants should be certified for PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry-Data Security Standards) and PA-DSS (Payment Applications-Data Security Standards). Impact Another layer of security, will take time to roll out effectively

Bank should track transaction patterns of usage of cards with card payment network to clamp down on fraud. Impact More active notification of transactions; raise red flags when behaviour deviates from pattern

Banks should move towards real-time fraud monitoring system at the earliest. Impact Reduce the impact of fraud on the customer if fraudulent transaction pointed out immediately

Banks should provide easier methods (like SMS) for the customer to block his card. Impact Should reduce the burden on the consumer to block cards in cases of misuse.

Dos & Don’ts

  • Select complex passwords that have nothing to do with your personal information; change them frequently; use different passwords for different accounts
  • Do not write your passwords anywhere or share them with anyone; don’t save them on computers that many can access
  • Never access your bank account on a device that is not personal; password-protect your devices
  • Run regular virus/malware checks
  • Do not respond to any e-mails/calls asking for any account or personal information, particularly ones seeking your data
  • Immediately inform your bank if you notice a fraudulent transaction; block card at the earliest. Complain in writing, so that it can followed up legally.
  • Ensure that websites asking for sensitive data online have SSL encryption in place (URL starts with https://); copy and paste the URL manually instead of clicking on a link in an email
  • Don’t use auto fill forms; log out of every e-commerce site before closing the browser window.

In the meantime, banks are looking at meeting the new norms, propagating safety, updating merchant terminals, alerting against phishing and so on. “There is no other way to say it but precautions are better preventives,” points out Kaushik. It’s not a comforting thought. Not knowing whether your data on the internet, credit, ATM, debit card is safe is a question you want a definite answer to. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.

In other markets, like the UK and US, there is far more awareness and action as far as cyber crimes and these kinds of frauds are concerned. All the parties involved—legal, banking, governmental or regulatory agencies—take a far more active role in solving these crimes. That needs to start happening here as well. As long as the base is small, processes can be built in to ens­ure a higher degree of safety and security. Without this, the idea of anytime, anywhere banking—as well as the dir­ect cash transfer project—will remain an elusive dream.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flower Poaching is rampant in Rockridge

By Sarah Williams

In Rockridge, a Rarefied Crime: Flower Poaching - Unprosecuted because it's not a high priority, the crime can nonetheless be fatal.
Spring has sprung in Oakland's beautiful Rockridge district, and the front-yard gardens that are the pride of so many homeowners there are in full bloom. But the seasonal bounty comes with a price in this affluent neighborhood. For here a rarefied criminal act goes underreported: flower poaching.

For decades, Rockridge residents have awoken to evidence that nighttime flower poachers have raided their street-side gardens for fragrant lilacs, roses, and hydrangeas. Whole bushes have been ripped from the ground in the wee hours. The poachers don't stop there, clipping entire branches from Japanese maples and — most sought-after at this time of year — the regionally scarce dogwood blooms that last just a few weeks. The trees are often left mutilated. Some have even been taken up by the roots and carried away whole.

Victims guess flower poaching is a black-market enterprise for small-time crooks looking to make a quick dollar. Much like stolen iPods and cell phones, which fetch a decent resale value on the black market, the plants have supposedly been recognized at local retailers and among curbside merchants' sundries. While community members say they've made crime reports to the Oakland Police Department for years, local cops have yet to nab a single poacher.

Despite a flurry of complaints that crop up on community-run Internet message boards as regularly as hay fever, each spring the issue is pushed aside for Oakland's more serious crime concerns. Even in Rockridge, stolen flowers don't stand up to budget crises, grand theft, and gun violence. So the crime goes mostly unreported — and the criminals unfettered in their illicit trade.

Nora, a fourteen-year resident of lower Rockridge, has a glorious Kentucky dogwood in the front yard of her home, along with a couple of young Japanese maples and a large, healthy hydrangea bush that blooms each summer. Dogwood species flourish on the East Coast and in the South, but trees like Nora's are relatively rare in this climate, making its brief springtime bloom the pride of her small garden, where her two children play. Neighbors re-route their daily strolls this time of year just to catch a glimpse of its bright, white clustered flowers.

But Nora, a perennial flower-poaching victim, derives no such joy from her tree. "Every time I look at the tree in bloom it breaks my heart because I know it's going to be poached," she said, standing in the dappled light beneath her dogwood's full-blossomed splendor on a recent Saturday morning. She caressed the tree's scars, some years old now but still visible to the naked eye. "It's just a really ugly shape," she said with a sigh.

Nora, who asked not to be identified with her last name so that she would not increase her risk of theft, remembers well the first morning she walked outside to find the telltale signs of a violent poach. Dogwood blossoms were scattered across the grass; gaping and seemingly random wounds dotted the trunk. Since that morning more than a decade ago, "we're just hoping it will grow back," she said. Hacked dogwood limbs damage a tree severely, and blooming branches can take years to regenerate. While many dogwood owners might clip a small branch or two each season to adorn their dining room table, Nora never does, for this very reason. She recently refused a request from her own mother for just a slight trimming.

After filing several police reports over the years, Nora and her husband decided to take matters into their own hands, installing a trip-wire along the narrow entry to the yard. Each night, they suspend a metal wire between two short posts at a height of about six inches. Awaking some mornings to find nearby tulips "scrunched" and the wire unlatched — but no dogwood blossoms scattered — the couple believe their poacher-preventative measure has been successful. And this year, the tree has yet to be molested, she reports.

Others haven't been so lucky. During the week of April 13, two separate Rockridge dogwoods were poached. One of those — a six-foot dogwood — was stripped of 80 percent of its blooming branches, according to a neighbor. The tree, which belongs to homeowners who were out of town during the poach, will likely die.

This story is common around lower Rockridge, where foot traffic is heavy and front yards are typically less than fifteen feet deep off the sidewalk. West of College Avenue, it's hard to find a solid block of houses without poaching tales that go back decades. Research for this story — door-to-door interviews and solicitations on popular local message boards — returned dozens of similar accounts from area residents. Poacher booty reportedly runs the gamut of all the fragrant and beautiful blooms the Bay Area climate can sustain. East of College, in upper Rockridge, no fewer than five separate dogwoods have been continually poached throughout the years. One attack on a baby tree proved fatal.

Residents have dreamed up preventive methods including installing security cameras, painting branches bright colors to dissuade reselling, leaving visible lamps and overhead lighting on all night, contracting with private security companies, and installing wireless sensors set to activate sprinklers. Some have requested more frequent police patrols at night.

While Nora would like to see law enforcement crack down on this crime, she knows Oakland police have bigger fish to fry, with higher-value burglaries and robberies a constant problem in the neighborhood. Just a few weeks ago, Nora's fourteen-year-old son was held up for his cell phone at gunpoint, not three blocks from the family's home. So the flowers become less of a concern.

"What can you do?" Nora asked. "It's city living."

Officer Patrick Gerrans has served the Rockridge district as its problem-solving officer for the past year and a half. As PSO, Gerrans acts as a liaison between the police department and area residents, attending monthly Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council meetings, where residents voice their concerns over area crime.

With that résumé, Gerrans should be something of an expert on flower poaching. But before receiving an interview request for this story, he had not heard of a single instance of this crime. Flower poaching has yet to be made a priority at NCPC meetings, longtime community activists report.

Gerrans said the regular community concerns are thefts, robberies, and burglaries on and around College Avenue. He guessed he hadn't been briefed on reports of flower poaching because they get lost in the mix of the hundreds of similar minor theft reports the department receives from Rockridge. "In any nice neighborhood you tend to see more robberies and burglaries than in other parts of the city," Gerrans said.

According to statistics obtained from the police department, during a recent seven-day period just one vehicle theft, one burglary, and one act of vandalism were reported in the half-mile scrim around the Rockridge BART station. From mid-March to mid-April, twelve thefts, seven burglaries, and nine vehicle thefts were reported in the same area, along with several cases each of assault and vandalism, and one of arson.

Gerrans said that a "crime of opportunity" like flower poaching is difficult to fight. "It's hard to plan out where a guy's going to be and where he's going to commit his crime," he said. Enforcement challenges only multiply during spring and summer's clement climes, when foot, car, and bicycle traffic increases significantly around the commercial stretch of College and minor thefts tend to spike. And since flower poachers work at night, the police's capacity to dissuade them through increased presence is reduced.

In the local shops where the stolen flowers might end up there's no evidence of poaching, and a strong ethic against it. Julia Lojo owns Market Hall's Bloomies flower shop, where she has worked for more than 22 years.

"I feel quite strongly about this," an apron-clad Lojo said, adding a few last young blooms to a blown-glass vase, with a dogwood branch providing the centerpiece for the arrangement. A home gardener herself, Lojo said she abhors the act of poaching. "It's just devastating to come out and see everything stripped."

As long as she has been in the neighborhood, Lojo has listened to customers' poaching horror stories. She said she buys her dogwood trimmings in bundles of five small (two- to three-foot long) branches, which cost her anywhere between $12.50 and $17 wholesale. With the rare blooms coming at that premium price, one can imagine flower shop owners might jump at dogwood bargains — maybe even be willing to turn a blind eye to a dubious source. "People with bad habits" have approached her in the past, offering small batches of magnolias and other flowers for sale out of their cars for a quick $20. But Lojo said she won't do business with them.

Instead, she buys exclusively from San Francisco Wholesale Flower Mart, a consortium of about fifty growers and buyers, all of whom own their businesses, carry business licenses, and can tell you with confidence where it comes from, she said. And while she most prefers to buy locally grown materials, Lojo's dogwoods currently come from Oregon, and her hydrangeas (a summer bloom in the Bay Area) from Colombia.

With not a single arrest on the books for flower poaching, the profile of the criminal perpetrating these strange acts is elusive. Are Rockridge's poachers expert small-time crooks, dialed into some complex black-market commerce that subverts the checks and balances of resale law? Or are they fine-flower hoarders, stealing all the blooms they can for some personal use? Simple vandals? Is this flower laundering, or outright flower marauding?

Victims claim to have recognized their garden growths for sale at BART stations, and in nearby restaurant displays, but there's no evidence of widespread reuse in Rockridge, where relations between local residents and retailers tend to be civil. The crime scenes indicate the acts of poaching are committed by flower amateurs, with no calm, and in the dead of night. Often flowers are inexpertly cut or, in the case of Nora's dogwood, left in such poor condition the knowledgeable criminal would have little hope for next year's score.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Work From Home - Cyber Crime Scams - Are You A Victim?

The Work from Home concept is very attractive for most people, as the advertisements offer huge sums of money for a few hours of simple work. But would you really be paid well for doing nothing much! If it is too good to be true, then it probably is not true!

The modus operandi is usually attractive advertisements on websites, public places and social media.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Insight: Crime Against Women, Are We A Lumpen Mob?

By Sunita Parekh | INN Live

In France, it has been forbidden since 2001 to show an accused handcuffed. The rationale for the rule is that showing the accused handcuffed damages badly his reputation at a stage of the proceedings where he is presumed to be innocent. Any person breaching this command of the law can be fined up to 15,000 Euros.

In India, we have a different mindset: what the Frenchmen would call au contraire (just the opposite). An accused here, especially the one involved in crime against women, is presumed to be guilty from the word go and public humiliation is only the just dessert he deserves earnestly.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Special Report: When A Free 'Juvenile' Rapes In India?

By Shyam Sunder / New Delhi

The science and logic behind the definition of a ‘juvenile’. And the consequences. Out of work and cashless for a few weeks, the boy who would soon be known across India as ‘Accused No 6’—a ‘juvenile’ whose identity the law would not let the media reveal—decided to pay a visit to an old friend and former colleague Ram Singh, who lived in a jhuggi near RK Puram in South Delhi. They had earlier worked together for a transport company in East Delhi for about six months—Ram Singh as a driver and the boy as his helper.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Don Dawood’s Illegal Money Washed Up In Nassau Island

Twenty years after he paid for the bombs which tore through Mumbai in 1993, killing 257 people, organised crime kingpin Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar’s cash has begun washing up on the shores of Nassau island – known for its perfect beaches, perfect weather, and zero-tax, high-secrecy banking. Ibrahim, a INN investigation has found, has emerged as the principal provider of financial services to narcotics traffickers and jihadists across South Asia – a business pegged at over $3.5 billion a year, which uses front companies to access the global financial system.

Ibrahim, transnational crime expert Gretchen Peters says, has become the, “the Goldman Sachs of organised crime. They’re highly transnational, they move billions of dollars annually, and service a wide range of clients from corrupt officials, to drug traffickers to terrorists”.

Last year, highly-placed government sources told INN, the Bank of Baroda’s Nassau branch saw successive wire transfers of several hundred thousand dollars from Dubai-based currency exchanges suspected of laundering organised crime proceeds. The firms, sources have told INN, included the al-Zarouni Exchange, the Dubai Exchange, and the al-Dirham Exchange – the last named in an Indian government dossier on Dawood Ibrahim’s operations.

“From the bank’s point of view”, the source said, “they’re doing nothing illegal, or even wrong. From our point of view, there’s a real concern: whose money is this, and where is it going”? The Bank of Baroda’s Nassau branch did not respond to an e-mail from INN seeking comment.

New Delhi had provided Islamabad with the dossier in 2011, naming at least 11 United Arab Emirates-based entities controlled by Ibrahim’s crime cartel. The list, seen by INN, includes Dolphin Management Services, a firm with multiple interests in real estate and trade. In 2006, Dolphin sought to invest in duty-free investments in the Maldives – an effort which was terminated after India’s concerns were brought to the attention of local authorities. The dossier also names entities which include al-Dirham Currency Exchange, Almas Electronics, Yusuf Trading, Reem Yusuf Trading, Falaudi Trading Company, and Gulf Coast Real Estates.

In addition, the dossier says Ibrahim has interests in three hotels controlled by United Arab Emirates-based tycoon Vardaraj Manjappa Shetty. Shetty has often been named in media reports as an associate of D-company, but vehemently denies the allegations.

Peters, at the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Centre at George Mason Univeristy, has been working to answer just that question. In a recent report, she showed how the al-Qaeda and Taliban—linked jihadist warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani funded his operations. The Haqqani network, she wrote, taxes “drug shipments that move across its control zones, and collects tax from other entities that smuggle narcotics through its territory”. It also imports “the precursor chemicals used to process raw opium into morphine base and heroin, including lime, hydrochloric acid and acetic anhydride”.

Even United States taxpayers have ended up funding the Haqqanis. “When USAID contracted the American firm Louis Berger Group in 2007 to build a highway between Gardez and Khost”, she noted, “the contracting firm paid a staggering $1 million annually to a local strongman suspected of having links to the Haqqani network. The 64-mile highway, which is yet to be completed, has cost about $121 million so far, with the final price tag expected to reach $176 million – or $2.8 million per mile”.

In 2011, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that the Afghan Taliban earned around US$155 million in 2009, mainly from levies on drug traffickers, and the Afghan druglords themselves some US$2.2 billion. The Taliban imposes a 10 percent ushr tax on the poppy harvest, and another 2.5 percent zakat on traders’ earnings.

In a recent testimony to the United States senate, Peters said Ibrahim’s networks launder these funds, enabling it to be funnelled into properties and new businesses. “He’s the super-facilitator”, she explains, “he is the man who has the connections and resources to make investments.

Pakistani defence analyst Ayesha Siddiqa believes these abilities derive from services Ibrahim has rendered to the Pakistani state over the years. “I think its because he is part of the jihadi network which is linked to the Pakistani defence establishment”, she says. “He bankrolls a lot of things, and therefore he continues to have a value. Do not forget that many years ago, there was a smuggler called Seth Abid, who had helped construct the nuclear programme. He was given a lot of importance by [former military ruler] General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq”.

Sushant Sareen, at the Institute for Defence and Strategic Analyses in New Delhi, concurs. “Ibrahim is highly embedded in the system”, Sareen says. “Say, there is a General’s son who needs his studies at an élite American university paid for, or a politician who is in financial trouble, well, Bhai can help”.

In 2001, journalist Ghulam Hasnain wrote that Dawood “lives like a king”. “Home is a palatial house spread over 6,000 square yards, boasting a pool, tennis courts, snooker room and a private, hi-tech gym. He wears designer clothes, drives top-of-the-line Mercedes and luxurious four-wheel drives, sports a half-a-million rupee Patek Phillipe wristwatch, and showers money on starlets and prostitutes”.

Former president Pervez Musharraf has said in an interview that many in Pakistan see Ibrahim as a “hero”, because the 1993 bombings were vengeance for the killings of Muslims in the riots that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Gulbahar Bano, a Bahawalpur-based singer summoned to Dawood Ibrahim’s house in Karachi’s Defence area for a performance, told friends the audience was full of people from the city’s civilian and military élite.

Dawood Ibrahim’s operations matter to Pakistan more than most people understand. Last year’s economic survey showed that the government had missed almost all of its significant macroeconomic targets. GDP growth was 3.7 percent against a hoped-for 4.2 percent; the fiscal deficit climbed over the projected 4 percent to 4.7 percent; large-scale manufacturing grew at just over 1 percent, instead of the target of 2 percent; services at 4 percent, instead of 5 percent. Pakistan’s pre-eminent foreign-exchange source, the textile industry, is in serious trouble because of an ongoing energy crisis, fuelling an economic crisis that economist Shahid Burki as described “the most serious in its history”.

Yet, a tidal wave of cash is flowing into Pakistan. In just the first eight months of fiscal year 2012-13, remittances of $9.23 billion flowed into Pakistan—up over 7 percent from the same period in 2011-12.

Pakistan’s remittance earnings have more than quadrupled since 2001. Part of the reason, some believe, are laws providing tax-exemptions for remittance earnings, which provide businesses an incentive to illegally send funds out of the country and then have them remitted home – much like what is suspected to be happening in India through the Mauritius route. This doesn’t, however, explain the sustained growth of the remittances, leading to suspicion that much of the money is laundered organised crime money, sheltered at home.

Last year, Bank of Punjab officials told Peters “they had more cash deposits in their tiny branch in Landi Kotal in the Khyber Pass, more than $70m, than they took in across the entire city of Lahore”. Landi Kotal is in the heart of Taliban country. There’s also been a surge in inexplicable banking activity in other terrorism-hit areas, like Parachinar.

Even though Karachi is in the middle of something of a civil war, its stock exchange is booming. The stock exchange began at 11,447 points in 2012 to close at 16,905, providing investors sparkling annual returns of 49 percent in spite of an overall decline in foreign investment. “I can tell you”, Peters said in a recent speech, “that Karachi stockbrokers believe that a small group of firms leading the highly speculative growth in the stock exchange are backed by Dawood Ibrahim”.

Banks, governments are starting to argue, just aren’t taking the issue seriously enough. Last year, for example, the United States senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations released a stinging 330-page report indicting HSBC for “severe anti-money laundering deficiencies”.

HSBC, the senate report says, did ill-monitored business with Saudi Arabia’s al-Rajhi bank – whose senior-most official, Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, appeared on an internal al-Qaeda list of financial benefactors discovered after 9/11. The al-Rajhi bank provided accounts to the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, designated by the United States as linked to terrorism. Its owners, the Central Intelligence Agency asserted in 2003, “probably know that terrorists use their bank”. Lloyds, in a lawsuit, also alleged that al-Rajhi ran accounts used “to gather donations that fund terrorism and terrorist activities” – including suicide bombing.

In its report, the senate also said HSBC dealt with Mexican money-changing businesses for years after its rivals had stopped on fears that they were fronts for drug-cartel money laundering. HSBC’s Mexico business had a branch in the Cayman Islands that in 2008 handled 50,000 client accounts and $2.1 billion in holdings, but had no staff or offices. It shipped bank notes by car – some $7 billion to the US from Mexico in 2007 and 2008, according to the report.

Earlier this week, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists analysed leaked files which revealed the identities of over 120,000 offshore companies and trusts, blowing the lid on the undeclared incomes of corporate wrong-doers, politicians and despots across the world.

The case of Ibrahim’s billions makes clear that the banks aren’t just providing havens for tax dodgers. They are quite literally profiting from murder.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Why we should be concerned about juvenile crime?

Of the six men accused of raping and brutally assaulting the 23-year-old woman, one of them turned out to be a juvenile, making him ineligible to be tried with the others but raising questions about what needs to be done to curb the rising number of crimes committed by teenagers.

According to the police, Ankur (name changed to protect identity), who worked at odd jobs at eateries in Delhi before becoming a helper for a white line bus, was the one who asked the couple to board the bus and got involved in one of the most gruesome gangrapes witnessed in the recent history of crime in India.

While Ankur will be tried in a juvenile court, experts say that the implementation of Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act- meant to prevent juvenile delinquency and reform offenders such as Ankur- falls way below expectations.
On paper, JJ Act mandates the operation of observation homes, child welfare committees and juvenile justice boards. But, on ground, “the Act has been made a mockery,” the Supreme Court observed in 2010.
More than 850 juveniles were booked for their alleged involvement in rape cases in 2010, up from 399 in 2001.

Kidnapping and abduction cases against juveniles witnessed a rise from 79 to 391 in the same time period. Crimes committed by juvenile suspects was 1.1 per cent of total crime in the country in 2011.
“We wake up reacting when we see children ending up doing something horrible. The question we should be asking is: What are we doing about juvenile crime prevention?” said Anant Asthana, lawyer and child rights activist.

Among the many lacunae in the implementation of JJ Act is the absence of a dedicated police unit for juveniles, he said.

“Delhi Police did not obey the circular issued by the police commissioner on juvenile police officers who would work exclusively on juvenile issues. Secondly, Delhi government has not set up district child protection units in all districts, which are mandated under the law to reach out to such children and their families,” Asthana said.

Probation units is another problem area. Under law probation units in JJ Boards (JJB) will have probation officers who act as an additional guardian of the juvenile offender and are responsible for restoration of the child.

“However, in practice the probation unit working with JJ Board 1 (JJB) is almost dead. No probation officer in any matter has come up with a rehabilitation plan of a child or has given insight to the Board on the needs of any juvenile. The probation unit thus is not doing the work that the Acts expects from and requires it to do and is as such a complete disappointment,” observed the principal magistrate of JJB 1 (one of the juvenile courts in the national capital) about the functioning of probation officers in an order in March 2011.

A study done by the Department of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi, and Prayas observation home for boys highlighted “a strong positive association between drug use and crime in adolescents.” Based on interviews of the staff of an observation home in Delhi, researchers found that the prevalence of any drug use among the boys before coming to the observation home was between 60- 70 per cent.

“In order to purchase drugs, boys indulged in shoplifting, gambling, pick- pocketing, burglaries and even murder. Thus, drug use led to other criminal activities,” noted the study.

However, it appears that the government has not acknowledged the drug- crime link among juveniles. The country’s only government drug de-addiction and rehabilitation centre for juveniles became operational in Delhi in 2011 after rejoinders from Delhi High Court.

“Drug use and sexual assault are common with street kids. Many of these boys have their own cult. Among their peers, they boast about having more than one girl friend,” said Dr Rajesh Kumar, executive director, Society for Promotion of Youth & Masses, which runs the centre in North Delhi.

On our preparedness to curb substance abuse in juveniles, Dr Kumar said, “We are not prepared to tackle issues as complex as drug use among juveniles in conflict with law. Such cases (Delhi gang rape) are warnings that we need to act.”

For better clarity and to bring maximum number if children under the ambit of the system, JJ Act (Central Model Rules 2009) mandates that the state government, JJB, child welfare committee, other competent authorities and agencies ensure that every person, school or other educational institutions abide by the guidelines issued from time to time by state and central government. But neither states nor Centre have formed guidelines. Hearing a public interest litigation filed by Delhi based NGO HAQ centre for child rights, Delhi High Court, in October 2012, asked the Centre and Delhi government to submit a status update on framing of these guidelines.

Conceding that the implementation of JJ Act leaves much to be desired, Bharti Ali of HAQ said that only systemic corrections will not help in containing juvenile delinquencies.

“Giving a child in conflict with the law a choice between being in an institutional facility or outside, is actually no choice at all as both suffer from ills that defeat the ends of justice and reform. Work is required at both ends. It is like making a choice between treating crime or criminal, when you need to work on both,” Ali said.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


By Niloufer Khan / Mumbai

The Mumbai crime branch claims to have stumbled upon a bollywood-bookie-cricketer nexus following the disclosures made by Vindoo Dara Singh, son of the late Dara Singh, while investigating the betting racket busted by them. Vindoo who is currently in the custody of the crime branch's property cell, has started singing during custodial interrogation, sources said. He has allegedly told the police that he not only placed bets but also facilitated others in Bollywood in placing bets with bookies he knew. At times, he would double up as a bookie himself and was known as "Jack" in bookie and punter circuits. The said Bollywood personalities are also known to hobnob with the bookies, he allegedly said.