Ajay Kolla 4
Ajay Kolla's (right) arrest was made after teams of police officials, including cyber-crime specialists, went through the company data, computers and the server to ascertain the facts. Image Credit: Supplied

Hyderabad/Dubai: Days after a Gulf News’ investigative report revealed a large-scale global job scam being operated from Hyderabad in India, the Hyderabad Police on Friday arrested Wisdom Jobs founder and CEO Ajay Kolla for defrauding thousands of unsuspecting jobseekers to the tune of millions of dollars. The company was running two job portals, wisdomjobsindia.com and wisdomjobsgulf.com.

Thirteen other key members including head of operation, team leader, consumer sales and several high-ranking executives have also been taken into custody. Among those arrested are two women.

Police brief the media
Police brief the media at the Cyberabad Police Commissionerate about the arrests on Friday. Image Credit: Cyberabad Police Commissionerate

Announcing the arrest at a press conference in Hyderabad, India, Cyberabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjannar said that Wisdom Jobs had been duping people by offering non-existent jobs and collecting large amounts of money from them. Preliminary investigation showed the company amassed Dh58 million by cheating 69,962 jobseekers in India and another 35,000 based abroad, police said in a statement to Gulf News.

All the 14 accused were produced before a Hyderabad Court where they were remanded to judicial custody.

Facing three-year jail term

The accused have been charged with cheating and impersonation and could face up to three years in jail if found guilty.

Sajjanar said that Wisdom Jobs staff impersonated officials of multi-national companies in telephone conversations to conduct fake interviews. Once the candidates had been deluded into believing that they had landed a job, the company would persuade them to pay more money towards verification fees and other charges, which was in addition to the initial money paid up for job activation on the bogus job site.

Gulf News first blew the lid off the audacious global recruitment racket on January 20. Our in-depth report — that detailed a sting operation, an audio recording as well as the testimonies of victims — uncovered how Wisdom Jobs staff had been impersonating HR managers of top companies, including many in the UAE, to conduct bogus interviews and offer bogus jobs.

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Text by Mazhar Farooqui Image Credit: Graphics: Ador T. Bustamante

Modus operandi

This is how the scam worked: Candidates who registered on the portal, which has over 30 million users, were asked to pay a resume forwarding/job activation fee of Rs7,600 (Dh400). Following this, they would be tricked into forking out more money towards a series of bogus fees and charges. By the time job-seekers could realise they were being scammed, they would have often spent up to Dh6,500.

The company rakes in millions of dollars annually through this scam, our report found.

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The business towers where Wisdom Jobs office is headquartered on the seventh floor in Hyderabad. Image Credit: Supplied

Following our report, the Hyderabad police ordered a probe against Wisdom Jobs and requested Gulf News to share evidence against the portal along with details of the victims which we did.

Subsequently, the police set up 10 teams and cracked down on Wisdom Jobs’ headquarters at Cyber Towers in Hyderabad’s Hi-Tech City in Madhapur. On Tuesday, the police seized the records of the company including computers and hard disks and detained several employees of Wisdom Jobs, including CEO Ajay Kolla for questioning. But it wasn’t until yesterday when they were arrested.

Ajay Kolla
Ajay Kolla Image Credit: Cyberabad Police Commissionerate

During Friday’s press conference, Sajjannar cited the case of Hyderabad resident Yedukondalu Gannavarapu who was duped into paying $675 to Wisdom Jobs after being interviewed for a senior engineer’s post by a woman impersonating the HR manager of a Dubai-based petroleum company. On January 21, just a day after the Gulf News report, Gannavarapu filed a police complaint against Wisdom Jobs after which a case was registered against the company.

Sajjanar thanked Gulf News for exposing the racket which spans India, Canada, USA, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Italy, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore and the portal’s favourite hunting ground — the Middle East.

Sajjanar said: “Cyberabad police acknowledges and appreciates the initiative taken by Gulf News in exposing this fraud. Plenty of information was shared by Gulf News in the report [which] helped our investigation. I hope other news agencies and newspapers will emulate the initiative taken by Gulf News in exposing the various frauds happening in society.”

Hundreds of jobseekers in the region, particularly in the UAE, have fallen prey to the scam in recent days.