NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday filed a chargesheet against five individuals, including two foreign nationals, in connection with human trafficking and cyber fraud syndicates operating domestically and internationally.

Among those charged, Jerry Jacob and Godfrey Alvares have been arrested, while Sunny Gonsalves and foreign nationals Niu Niu and Elvis Du remain at large.

The NIA’s investigation revealed that the accused were targeting Indian youths proficient in computers and English, coercing them into working in fraudulent call centers under tourist visas for financial gain. The victims were recruited, transported, and transferred from India to the Golden Triangle SEZ in Lao PDR via Thailand. Upon arrival, they received training in using Facebook and Telegram, basic cryptocurrency operations, and managing apps created by scam companies.

Powerful syndicates used various victim control tactics to coerce trafficked youth into continuing their work in online fraud. These tactics included isolation, restriction of movement, confiscation of personal travel documents, physical abuse, arbitrary fines, threats of murder, rape (for women), and false drug charges at local police stations.

An NIA spokesperson revealed that the human trafficking and cyber fraud racket operated with audacity. The accused even deleted data from victims’ mobile phones to destroy evidence. Victims were threatened if they approached embassies or local authorities. In some cases, victims were held in scam compounds, confined without food for three to seven days, and tortured if they refused to work. They were only released after extortion payments ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 1,80,000 were made or after intervention by the Embassy of India in Lao PDR based on victims’ complaints.

The Indian Cyber Coordination Centre (I4C) has identified Southeast Asian countries like Lao PDR and Cambodia as new hubs of financial cyber fraud targeting India. Recently, 46% of defrauded money was lost to cybercrimes such as investment scams, digital arrest scams, trading scams, and dating scams originating from these regions.