Bitcoin’s popularity in India is going to increase once more, as the leading political parties in the country are at loggerheads regarding a multi-million dollar scam in the southern state of Karnataka involving the leading cryptocurrency. A spokesperson for the main opposition party i.e. the Indian National Congress (INC), Randeep Singh Surjewala, accused the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) on Saturday for covering up the scam. The spokesperson demanded that Chief Minister of the BJP’s government in Karnataka, Basavaraj Bommai disclose the name of the actors who are involved in the fraud. Speaking at a press conference, Surjewala said that it is the biggest ever ‘Bitcoin Scam Cover Up’ in India.
He said that rather than carrying out a fair investigation, the BJP government of Karnataka is involved in the cover-up, which is a case of whitewash, intrigue, concealment and deception. The comments from Surjewala came after a number of Congress leaders said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told Bommai to not worry about the case and was asking him to drop the investigation. Siddaramaiah, a senior leader of the Congress and the former chief minister of Karnataka tweeted that rather than asking the CM of Karnataka to investigate the matter, the Prime Minister was telling him to ignore the allegations.
He added that they had no idea if the CM has involved in the scam himself or not and they just wanted Bommai to investigate the scam and punish the guilty party accordingly. The scam came to light about a year ago, even though it happened back in 2019. A hacker named Srikrishna had been arrested by the Central Crime Branch police of Bengaluru, along with his associates, in a case related to narcotics. The police discovered during the investigation that Srikrishna was actually the mastermind behind the 2019 alleged hacking of the E-procurement portal of the Karnataka government.
According to reports, the hacker had managed to siphon off about 10 crore rupees, which is around $1.3 million. According to the statement of Congress’s Surjewala, the hacker had also admitted to hacking the Bitfinex crypto exchange back in 2016 and stealing 2,000 bitcoins. In January, the Bengaluru police claimed that they had recovered around 31 bitcoins from Srikrishna, which were valued at Rupees 9 crore. But, the team had retracted their claim later saying that the coins stolen hadn’t been transferred from Srikrishna’s wallet. When the scam occurred, Basavaraj Bommai had been Karnataka’s home minister.
Surjewala demanded in the press release that his role be disclosed and also questioned why Interpol hadn’t been informed about the stolen coins. The spokesperson for the Congress also asked that the government investigate whether the stolen Bitcoins had been moved by Srikrishna in December 2020 when he was in custody and who had received them. Surjewala cited twitter-based tracker ‘Whale Alerts’ as possible evidence, which showed that 14,682 coins stolen from Bitfinex had been transferred on December 1st, 2020. Up until now, leaders of the BJP party have maintained that involvement of party leaders in the scam are just rumors.