The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Alleged data seller on the run
-Before ‘sting’ on TV, police find bird has flown

Calcutta, Oct. 5: Hours before a British TV channel was to show Sushant Chandak offering to sell credit card details, police here found themselves chasing a trail that has gone cold.

Officers of the Criminal Investigation Department raided his apartment in a housing complex at Nagerbazar in north Calcutta yesterday only to see the main door locked.

“Sensing trouble, he left his apartment with his belongings. Neighbours told us that the 29-year-old youth called a rickshaw and left the complex with his belongings packed in three bags,” said Rajeev Kumar, deputy inspector-general of police (operations), CID.

Chandak realised he would be in trouble after a report mentioning Calcutta’s link in a call centre scandal was published in The Telegraph on October 2. Around 9.30 am on that day, he left the apartment.

According to information given out by Channel 4, which was to show the programme called The Data Theft Scandal on Friday 1.30 am Indian time, Chandak had offered to sell a database with credit card details of 200,000 people. He also had passport numbers, driving licence numbers and personal banking details.

At a separate meeting, also with Channel 4 staff, he offered the details of 8,000 British mobile phone users.

Chandak boasted of a network of agents in call centres across India. “I have a good rapport with them. We cooperate. I pay them, so they trust me,” he had allegedly said.

In the programme, Chandak is seen grinning as a taped conversation is played of a British woman being coaxed into giving the security number on the back of her credit card. The caller claims to be from a UK company that sells cellphones.

The caller says: “It’s a recorded line and whatever information you provide me or my company, it is under the strictest of confidence. You are protected under the Data Protection Act.”

The woman then discloses her security number.

The Indian information technology industry has reacted with outrage, questioning the modus operandi of these so-called sting operations.

The CID swung into action after a strong reaction from Britain’s data protection unit once it came to know about the Calcutta link — a second middleman, called Ghufran, from Delhi, is also named in the scandal. Ghufran offered details of customers with Halifax, Nationwide, Woolwich, Bank of Scotland and NatWest for £5 (Rs 430) each.

British police collected information about Chandak and contacted the Delhi headquarters of a call centre where he once worked.

“We have been asked to initiate a probe by Delhi police,” said an officer.

The police said Chandak’s parents left the apartment on September 15 on a pilgrimage. “The family came here seven months back and Chandak married only six months ago,” a neighbour told the police.

The police do not expect even the parents to return to the flat. “We think he has alerted his parents,” an officer said.

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