Cybercrime: The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland files indictment on charges of fraud for commercial gain in relation to an Indian tech support scam
Bern, 22.09.2023 - The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), on September 21st, 2023, has filed an indictment against an Indian national in the Federal Criminal Court (FCC). As one of the suspected ringleaders of a criminal group, acting from India, he allegedly defrauded numerous aggrieved parties of several thousand Swiss francs, relying on a scheme known as “tech support scam”.
The OAG accuses the Indian national of fraud for commercial gain (art. 146 para. 1 in connection with para. 2 Swiss Criminal Code, SCC). The criminal proceedings, which were instituted in November 2021 following several criminal complaints filed by Swiss banks and private aggrieved parties, were conducted as accelerated proceedings. The accused was arrested in Switzerland in February 2023 and remains in detention since.
The accused is alleged to be one of the leaders of a criminal group operating from Delhi, which defrauded around 85 clients of Swiss banking institutions and airline companies of around CHF 135 000 over a period of at least 22 months.
The investigation highlights the level of professionalization such organizations operate on, sharing the various tasks between members. For instance, the organization included steering as well as coordinating staff - such as the accused - but also a sales and a marketing team. The employees of the marketing team were responsible for creating and marketing the fake websites, while sales team members managed “customer contact” with the aggrieved parties. On the phone with the aggrieved parties, they would pose as IT support staff of a banking institution or an airline company.
By the use of fake websites, which appeared to be the bank or airline company’s official sites, aggrieved parties were asked to reach out to the supposed IT support staff of the respective institution via phone. During the phone call, aggrieved parties were instructed to install remote maintenance steering software under a pretext and to open an account at a cryptocurrency exchange. Subsequently, the aggrieved parties carried out a transaction on the corresponding cryptocurrency platform, on which they unknowingly and unwillingly bought cryptocurrency for the criminal group using their own money.
The experiences from these criminal proceedings show that even in cyberspace, it is possible to identify professional criminal groups and to hold them to criminal account in a court of justice.
It is now in the responsibility of the court to further assess criminal responsibility in this case. The presumption of innocence applies until a final judgment has been issued.
With the filing of the indictment, the FCC has sole responsibility for providing further information.
Accelerated proceedings (Art. 358 ff. Swiss Criminal Procedure Code):
Accelerated proceedings make it possible, subject to certain requirements, to conclude a case more quickly. Where the accused essentially admits his or her guilt and accepts the civil claims in principle, it is no longer necessary to lead evidence on all aspects of the charges. The accepted facts of the case serve as the basis for drafting the indictment, which must be approved by both the accused and by the complainants. The indictment is then submitted to the court in the form of a proposed judgment. The court assesses whether it is lawful and appropriate to conduct accelerated proceedings, whether the charges are consistent with the outcome of the main hearing and the case files, and whether the requested sanctions are reasonable. If the court decides that the requirements for accelerated proceedings have been met, the indictment is transformed into its judgment. If not, ordinary proceedings are conducted instead.
Address for enquiries
Communications Service of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, firstname.lastname@example.org, T +41 58 464 32 40
Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland