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An executive magistrate in Azad Jammu and Kashmir's (AJK) lakeside city of Mirpur on Sunday remanded three suspects in police custody for a week over charges of their alleged involvement in fraudulent withdrawal of cash through cloned automated teller machine (ATM) cards.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mirpur Irfan Saleem told Dawn that Mirpur police caught the suspects "red-handed" Saturday evening, adding that two of the three alleged skimmers hail from Lahore while the other hails from Sahiwal.

SSP Saleem said that initial investigations revealed that the suspects, who are part of a gang, would install a skimmer ─ a small device to capture credit and debit card information ─ as well as a hidden camera in the ATM kiosks to record personal identification numbers, or PINs, of patrons.

They would then prepare cloned ATM cards and draw money from the accounts of those patrons by using their PINs, the senior police officer added.

SSP Saleem said the police had received information that a small device had been spotted in the ATM kiosk of a private bank near Nangi Chowk in the city.

Acting on the tip-off, the police conducted an operation at the kiosk where three persons, who had allegedly come to remove the skimmer, were taken into custody, he added.

Apart from a laptop, a skimmer and a hidden camera, the Mirpur police also confiscated a car from their use, the SSP said.

He further claimed that the accused, in the preliminary investigations on Saturday, told the police that they had allegedly drawn millions of rupees via ATM skimming in different cities, from Islamabad to Multan, across the country.

The senior police officer alleged that the accused in December last year withdrew around Rs1.7m in two separate ATM skimming attempts in Mirpur only. The accused further informed the police about their "office" in Lahore, from where their ATM card cloning machine and other equipment was confiscated.

SSP Saleem further said that since there were no laws dealing with cyber crime in the region, the AJK police had to deal with the case using the already existing theft laws.

The accused were booked under sections of 472, 473, 474 of Pakistan Penal Code and Section 14 of the Offences Against Property (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance.