Inability to recover bitcoins continues to fuel allegations

Congress has alleged a ‘cover-up in the scam’

November 02, 2021 12:24 am | Updated 10:32 am IST - Bengaluru

A file photo of a Bitcoin symbol.

A file photo of a Bitcoin symbol.

The city police that probed hacker Sri Krishna’s cybercrimes and charge-sheeted him in three cases have alleged that he hacked multiple U.S.-based bitcoin exchange wallets and stole over 5,000 bitcoins. But they have failed to recover a single bitcoin.

Political circles are abuzz with reports that an American agency has flagged the case with their Indian counterparts and the Prime Minister’s Office has sought details on the case and that it is likely to lead to big-ticket political changes in Karnataka.

Amid a political storm over an alleged “cover-up of bitcoin scam” that the Opposition Congress has alleged involves transactions worth ₹10,000 crore and two prominent polit icians of the State, the failure to recover the stolen bitcoins se ems to be at the core of several suspicions. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah, in a series of tweets on Monday, demanded that the Chief Minister place all details of the probe before the public. “Where are the 5,000 bitcoins now? Have they been recovered or have they not been found yet?” the Congress leader asked.

Senior officials in the Central Crime Branch (CCB), who arrested Sri Krishna in November 2020 in connection with a dark web drugs case, only to uncover his hacking exploits, said they were not able to recover a single bitcoin from him. The CCB had, in December 2020, claimed they had recovered 31 bitcoins worth ₹9 crore, only to later realise that the bitcoins he transferred to a government wallet in the presence of experts were not his own, but from a hacked account.

“This only shows how skilled and dodgy he is. He neither has a bank account nor a mobile phone. We have electronic evidence of his online activities to substantiate our allegations. The lack of recovery of stolen goods is not the norm in every case,” an official said.

Stashed away?

Agencies believe Sri Krishna, 26, now out on bail, has either spent most of the bitcoins he stole or may have stashed them in a secret wallet or in offshore accounts that they have failed to uncover.

The State Government wrote to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Interpol Division of Central Bureau of Investigation. The ED, which has questioned Sri Krishna over five times, has also failed to recover any bitcoins from him.

“We suspect that he may have stashed some money, converting the bitcoins to hard currency in some offshore location. We have written to several foreign countries where there is such a possibility, but to no avail so far,” a senior ED official said.

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