Pakistan’s first ATM skimming case; Accused’s bail plea rejected
ISLAMABAD: Senior Civil Judge Mahmood Haroon Thursday rejected the bail plea of local varsity students who prepared a skimmer to illegally elicit data from ATM cards and deprived cardholders of millions of rupees bringing the credit card fraud into the country. Meanwhile the competent court ordered Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to submit a complete challan within a month.
A First Information Report (FIR) vide 01/2011 dated 20-01-11 was registered against Zaheer Ahmed, Nasir Abbas, Amir Shahzad, Muhammad Javed and Mustaqeem under section 36 and 37 of Electronic Transaction Ordinance (ETO) 2002 with FIA crime circle, Rwalpindi. The complaint was lodged by Syed Mustafa Ali Raza, Fraud Management Unit– North, Islamabad.
FIA conducted an inquiry (No, RE-11/11) and found Zaheer Ahmed, a resident of Chatha Bakhtawar, along with Nasir Abbas, Amir Shahzad, Muhammad Javed and Mustaqeem Ahmed embroiled in unauthorized access to the credit cards data. It was further revealed that when 14 Bank Al-Falah Credit Cardholders made a genuine transaction at Tri Star Petroleum (PSO) in 1-10 Markaz, Islamabad, the accused Zaheer Ahmed along with others fraudulently accessed the information systems of Bank / Visa International / Master Cards data and subsequently made fraudulent transactions on the same card accounts by using the counterfeit credit cards incurring Bank Al-Falah a loss of over Rs one million.
According to FIA interrogation, Zaheer was a local varsity student of electronics engineering and locally prepared skimmer to extract data from ATM cards. This credit card crime known as skimming in foreign countries is almost unprecedented in Pakistan.
The defence counsel Thursday said that his clients were brilliant students and got embroiled in the crime due to their unemployment. He said they acknowledge their mistake and are willing to cooperate with FIA. He argued the maximum punishment prescribed for the offence in the law was 7-year imprisonment and normally bail is granted in the cases having less than 10-year imprisonment, therefore, the accused was entitled to be released on bail in the case which required further inquiry.
FIA legal Advisor Khalid Ahmed argued that the accused were caught red and said it was a mockery to vindicate the crime by being unemployed. He said that they were the bad example of educated people and demanded a stern punishment for them so to stem any potential criminal from committing the crime.
FIA investigations revealed that Zaheer possessed two skimmers, one to elicit information from a card with a magnetic strip, classically a credit card, when it is used in a legitimate financial transaction. Once collected on the device, the skimmer can be used to make a clone of the card, which can be used for fraudulent purposes, or the collected information can be utilized for online and over the phone transactions which do not require a physical credit card but only the information on the card.
The second skimmer is a small electronic device that the criminal attaches to a credit card terminal or automated teller machine (ATM). In this case, every time a card is swiped through the machine the skimmer gathers the user’s information, and it may be attached to a device that logs keystrokes to collect the personal identity numbers (PINs) of people who use the terminal.
The accused mostly used second skimmer, Zaheer attached electronic device with ATM and the accused Nasir and Shahzad was carding that ATM cabin. When a victim uses ATM machine and his card is stuck in skimmer the accused would copy his information and password with another wireless device attached to the skimmer. FIA arrested the accused on 21-01-2011 from a flat in G-10 where they stayed. According to FIA, this is a unique case in the history of Pakistan. After the initial hearing, the court sent them to Adyala Jail, Rawalpindi and permitted FIA to search other suspected houses. Subsequently, FIA raided a flat in F-10 and recovered multiple counterfeit credit cards, PSO fleet / commercial cards and a laptop computer.
FIA Thursday produced all the accused before the trial court, where the Senior Civil Judge asked about the Challan. The FIA official told the challan was delayed due to the technical nature of the issue. FIA official informed that during the course of investigation numerous computers / digital equipment that were used in the commission of the offence have been taken into custody. The seized items are being forensically analyzed in Forensic Laboratory.
Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing till June 23 and ordered FIA to produce the complete challan of the case within a month.