KATHMANDU, Nov 11: Following repeated incidents of ATM skimming with the active participation of nationals from East European countries like Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police on Thursday urged the Department of Immigration to exercise vigilance against nationals of those countries visiting Nepal.
Of the six East European nationals arrested in the last two weeks, all were found involved in ATM skimming--some were found active in installing the skimming devices and others were involved in withdrawing cash from ATM booths with the use of fake cards and stolen data and pin numbers.
The two arrested on Thursday have been identified as coming from Turkey. They were in possession of Rs 2 million in cash skimmed from ATM booths at different tourist hubs in Kathmandu. The arrested are Muhareem Uzun, 52, and Selahattin Yabar, 32, both involved in withdrawing cash. Police arrested the two from Hotel Yellow Pagoda, in possession of fake ATM cards, eight pages printed with stolen pin numbers, and USD 1,660, Euro 1,700 and Rs 2.67 million.
“During preliminary investigations we found that the two and those arrested earlier were working under the same syndicate,” CIB Director DIG Nawa Raj Silwal said. Their modus operandi and the evidence gathered so far support claims that an organized criminal gang is active in Nepal, the CIB director added.
The syndicate members worked on a commission basis--60 percent of the total withdrawals to those involved in installing the devices and 40 percent to those involved in withdrawing the money, according to investigators. As they bring hundreds of fake ATM cards through immigration checkpoints, a little more vigilance would be helpful in curbing the crime, police officials repeated.
Investigations revealed that they withdrew money with the ATM cards that they brought from Europe and were preparing to leave Nepal on November 12 after exchanging Nepali rupees with USD and purchasing expensive gazettes.
Following an alarming rise in ATM skimming in Europe and America in recent years, the skimming gangs from East Europe are found to be active in Nepal, prompting banks, law enforcement agencies and consumers to take immediate precautions.
ATM skimming involves stealing debit card and pin numbers through electronic devices with a spy camera that they attach inside the booths. The data is stolen through the insertion of an illegal card-reading device in the ATM.
In view of the possible risks, Nepal Rastra Bank has instructed banks to strengthen security features in the about 35 million ATM cards that have been issued. Bank operators have gone on the alert only after they get complaints from customers or there is an unexpected transaction.
Since November 2014, CIB has arrested nine East Europeans. The prime reason behind their targeting Nepal is the lack of a strong legal system here.