Karnataka High Court orders cancellation of lookout circular against Bengaluru hacker Sriki’s brother in ED case | Bangalore News | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

The Karnataka High Court has ordered the cancellation of a lookout circular issued on the request of the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) against the brother of hacker Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki, 29.

The high court has ordered the cancellation of the LOC (issued for the first time in December 2020) against Sudarshan Ramesh, 32, the older brother of the hacker, because no case had been made out against him by the ED after its investigations of a money laundering case.

In January 2021, the hacker’s brother had been prevented by immigration authorities at the Bengaluru airport from leaving for the Netherlands, where he was employed, on the basis of a Look Out Circular issued at the instance of the ED.

“It is declared that the LOC issued against the petitioner by respondent No.2 (Bureau of Immigration) is unenforceable and respondent No.2 to delete the endorsement ‘cancelled’ affixed on the passport of the petitioner forthwith,” Justice Hemanth Chandangoudar has ruled.

Festive offer

“It is needless to state that the petitioner shall appear before the respondent No.3 (Directorate of Enforcement), as and when summoned, in the event, any incriminating material is uncovered during the course of investigation, and also furnish his official email ID as well as contact details and the permanent residential address,” the high court said.

The ED has been probing the source of an amount of 50,000 pounds that was transferred by the hacker’s father Gopal Ramesh Iyengar to an individual identified as Hanish Patel in the UK.

During court hearings last year, the ED alleged non-cooperation by the hacker and his brother in providing passwords to temporary emails and certain keys used for the transfer of the 50,000 pounds.

The high court has ruled that the repeated summons – including the most recent one for an appearance before the agency in June – issued to the brother of the hacker on suspicion of his involvement in money laundering is a violation of rights.

“The petitioner was summoned under Section 50 of the PMLA, 2002, on several occasions, and in pursuance of the same, he appeared and his statement was recorded, and in the statement so recorded, nothing incriminating is elicited to summon him for further investigation,” the high court observed.

“LOC cannot be issued solely on the ground that the petitioner has not provided information to the convenience and satisfaction of the respondent No.2, and in the absence of any material that the petitioner was aware of the transactions between his father and one Mr. Hanish Patel, the petitioner cannot be repeatedly summoned to give information to suit the convenience of the prosecution,” the court noted.

“In the absence of any reasonable suspicion, leave alone probable cause, the LOC issued for securing the presence of the petitioner for recording further statements would be arbitrary and violate the fundamental rights enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India” the high court stated.

The Directorate of Enforcement has filed two Enforcement Case Information Reports (ECIRs) for money laundering against Sriki and his associates for hacking-related crimes and alleged money laundering through Bitcoins.

The ED filed a chargesheet on July 3 this year against Srikrishna and 18 others over the laundering of Rs 11.55 crore stolen by the hacker and his associates from the bank account of the procurement portal of the government of Karnataka in July 2019.

The ED is, however, yet to file a chargesheet under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, over the ECIR registered on January 4, 2021, with regard to the alleged hacking of crypto exchanges and poker websites in India and abroad by the hacker.

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The Central Crime Branch police in Bengaluru took up the second case on Srikrishna’s own admission of involvement in hacking crypto exchanges and online poker sites but did not seize any proceeds of the crimes.

The criminal activities of the hacker Srikrishna have been at the centre of a political controversy in Karnataka over the last two years with insinuation of corruption involving police officials and politicians.

The Congress government, which came to power in May, has created a Special Investigation Team of the state CID police to conduct fresh investigations into the crimes registered against the hacker and his associates in Bengaluru.

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