India has been showing an active interest in cryptocurrencies for quite some time now. Especially following the Bitcoin-boom of late 2017, a number of traditional investors have moved to the crypto markets, eyeing major profits. However, crypto-related crime too, is on the rise in the country. A Bitcoin extortion case from earlier this year has taken an interesting turn, as a former Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) has now been declared an ‘absconder’ by the court.
Earlier this year, Surat-based businessman Shailesh Bhatt had alleged that he, along with his business partner Kirit Paladia, was kidnapped by policemen from Amreli. This kidnapping was made so that Bitcoins can be extorted from the duo. Allegedly, 200 Bitcoins, worth Rs. 12 Crore at the time - were demanded.
As per reports, Bhatt later alleged that MLA Nalin Kotadiya was also involved in this conspiracy to kidnap him and extort Bitcoins. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) team is now probing the case. A local sessions court has now claimed that Kotadiya is an ‘absconder’ from the law as he has since been missing.
Kotadiya has now been served a notice of 30 days to appear before the court. The court has declared Kotadiya to be a "proclaimed offender" (absconder) under section 82 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC ) in response to an application by the CID. There was an arrest warrant issued for Kotadiya, but the CID claimed that he did not answer the summons and did not appear to the agency and was nowhere to be found. Following this, the CID appealed to the court to declare him as an absconder - which has now happened.
This is one of the biggest crypto-related cases going on in the Indian courts at the moment. Over the course of the investigation, a number of policemen, including a superintendent of the police have been arrested in this case. Kotadiya, who was a former MLA with the BJP, India’s ruling party, had contested and won elections from Dhari in Amreli district in the past. He did not contest the most recent elections and instead chose to support a candidate from another party this year.
Crypto-Crime in India
Cryptocurrency related crime has been on the rise across the globe. India too, has been facing their fair share of crypto-crimes, including a recent case where a company advocating for reversing the Reserve Bank’s ban on cryptocurrencies was found to be a fraudulent organization running a Ponzi investment scheme. Moreover, in another crypto-related incident, top-level officials of Indian cryptocurrency exchange Coinsecure have been alleged to be absconding after 438 Bitcoins went missing.
It is not just these kinds of incidents, but cryptojacking too - has been becoming a problem in India. A few months ago, websites of leading Indian newspapers - The Asian Age and The Deccan Chronicle were found to be mining for cryptocurrencies using the processing power of the visitors. More recently, a malware infected the network of computers in Indian business giant Aditya Birla Group’s organization - again mining for cryptocurrencies without the users being aware about it.