A special investigations unit has been set up in the Indian state of Maharashtra where there is a rise in bitcoin-related scams. The unit will take over the investigation of all cases relating to cryptocurrency in the state that are currently handled by various police departments.
Special Unit Formed for Crypto
Minister Deepak Vasant Kesarkar, a member of the 13th Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, made a statement regarding cryptocurrency cases in his state on Tuesday. The Pune Mirror quoted him replying to a Calling Attention motion tabled by the opposition leader in the Legislative Council:
A special investigative team (SIT) will be formed to investigate all cases related to cryptocurrency, including bitcoin, in Maharashtra…The SIT will take over investigations currently being done by various units of the state police.
He explained that the new unit will be headed “by an official of the rank of additional director-general of police,” adding that it has been given three months to research all of the companies “that have cheated investors in the name of cryptocurrency.”
Panel to Probe Scams
The Maharashtra government has also decided to conduct an inquiry using “a panel headed by additional director general of Economic Offence (EO) Prabhat Kumar,” DNA publication detailed.
“The panel will be entitled to coordinate with central agencies including Enforcement Directorate (ED) for probe in such scams.”
Kesarkar told the news outlet:
Already such cases were reported in Thane, Pune, Nanded and Kolhapur where members of public have been allegedly cheated through cryptocurrency.
The Pune Mirror elaborated, “It is estimated that investors from the state were cheated to the tune of around Rs. 2,000 crore [~US$290 million] in cryptocurrency trade,” adding that “the most common method of cheating was offering high returns under the multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme.”
Other Recent Crypto Fraud Cases
Last week, the Indian Congress party alleged that some of the top BJP party leaders are involved in a bitcoin scam in Gujarat. The Financial Express quoted a Congress spokesperson saying there were “reports of the state police blackmailing some businessmen in Surat for extortion and named a former BJP legislator as one of the kingpins.”
On Monday, a city sessions court refused bail to seven police officers who were arrested in connection with a bitcoin extortion case in June, according to the Times of India. They were accused of being part of the police team that allegedly abducted and detained Surat-based builder Shailesh Bhatt and forced him and his business partner Kirit Paladiya to transfer 200 BTC.
The move by the Maharashtra government came just four days after the crypto banking ban by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) went into effect.
Editor’s Note: The currency conversion in this article has been updated.
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