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Police break up US tax scam ring in Mumbai

Police have arrested 70 call-centre workers in Mumbai on suspicion of tricking US citizens into sending money by posing as US tax officials. It is not the first in an increasingly competitive global call center market.

Some 200 officers raided seven premises and arrested 772 workers in raids on nine call centers in the in the Mira Road suburb of Mumbai, following a tip-off.

"A total of 772 employees were detained. Out of this 70 were formally arrested and the others were released but investigations against them are ongoing," Sukhada Narkar, a spokesperson for police in the Thane suburb of Mumbai, told the French news agency AFP, adding that the fraud had been going on for over a year and that police believed were making around 10 million rupees ($150,000) a day.

Narkar said Indian police had not worked with US authorities on the case, although there have been reports in American media about similar-sounding scams, which authorities have said might be operated out of India.

Seventy were formally arrested, 630 released pending questioning and 72 freed without further investigation, Reuters reported.

"The motive was earning money," Parag Manere, a deputy commissioner of police, told Reuters. "They were running an illegal process, posing themselves as officers of the (U.S.) Internal Revenue Service."

The police official did not identify the company where the call centre workers were employed.

The alleged scammers asked Americans to buy prepaid cash cards in order to settle outstanding tax debts and threatened to arrest people who did not pay.

A Pennsylvania man who helped coordinate a scam in which India-based callers preyed on vulnerable US citizens by pretending to be US government agents was sentenced to 14-1/2 years in prison in 2015.

jbh/bw (AFP, Reuters, PTI)