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Karnataka SIT arrests hacker Sriki’s accountant in 2017 case of theft of 60.6 Bitcoins from crypto exchange | Bangalore News | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Karnataka CID, which is probing a Bitcoin scam in the state, has carried out a second arrest in the June 2017 hacking of the Unocoin crypto currency exchange by hacker Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki.

The SIT has arrested Robin Khandelwal, 30, a crypto currency trader who doubled up as an accountant for laundering Bitcoins and other crypto currencies for Sriki, 29. The arrest was confirmed on Saturday by CID sources.

Sriki, who is accused of stealing 60.6 Bitcoins (valued at Rs 1.14 crore at the time) from the Unocoin exchange in June 2017, was earlier arrested by the SIT on May 7.

The Unocoin hacking case is among several other cases pertaining to Sriki that is being investigated by the SIT set up following allegations of large scale corruption in the investigations of the hacking cases during the BJP tenure between 2019 and 2023.

The CID has announced the invoking of charges under the stringent Karnataka Control of Organized Crime Act, 2000, in the Unocoin hacking case against Sriki and Khandelwal.

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“As the main accused in this case Srikrishna Ramesh @ Sriki and Robin Khandenwal are accused in many such cases, the investigation has been carried out by adopting Section-3 of the Karnataka Organized Crime Act (KCOCA Act),” the CID said in an official statement.

Under section 3 of the KCOCA law, persons accused of organised crimes not involving death can be punished with “imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine, which shall not be less than five lakh rupees”.

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On July 17, 2017, Harish B V, the co-founder of Unocoin Technologies — one of the first crypto currency exchanges in India — filed a police complaint in the Tumkur region of Karnataka where the exchange is located. Harish said that 60.6 Bitcoins were stolen by unknown persons in a hacking that occurred on June 23, 2017.

The complaint alleged that the total value of the Bitcoins stolen in the hacking was Rs 1.14 crore – at the rate of Rs 1.67 lakh per Bitcoin (the prevailing rate for Bitcoin at the time). The complaint alleged that the stolen Bitcoins were moved to two separate online locations.

After the earlier arrest of Sriki in November 2020, the Bengaluru police alleged that the Rs 1.14 crore Bitcoin hacking at the Unocoin crypto exchange was carried out by the hacker. The police, however, did not file a chargesheet in the 2017 case.

The SIT, which has found evidence to show that Sriki hacked the Unocoin crypto currency exchange, arrested the hacker for the heist on May 7 this year.

According to statements given to the police by Robin Khandelwal, a Bitcoin trader who doubled up as an accountant for the hacker, he sold 130 Bitcoins that were given to him by Srikrishna between 2017-20 and a total of Rs 3.48 crore from the sale of the Bitcoins were given to the accounts of persons indicated by the hacker while Rs 1.5 crore was provided in cash (through hawala routes) to the hacker himself.

The SIT is investigating whether the Bitcoins given to Khandelwal by the hacker involved Bitcoins that were stolen from exchanges. The hacker claimed when he was arrested in 2020 that he was involved in the hackling of crypto exchanges around the world for many years.

Background of Karnataka Bitcoin scam

The hacker Srikrishna and his accountant Robin Khandelwal were initially arrested by the crime branch police in November 2020 on charges of buying drugs online using Bitcoins.

The case involving the purchase of drugs on the darknet eventually led to the cracking of several crimes in Karnataka – involving the then 26-year-old hacker Srikrishna Ramesh – including a Rs 11.5 crore heist from the Karnataka e-governance cell in 2019 .

The handling of the cases involving the hacker by the police under the BJP regime in Karnataka after the arrests in November 2020 resulted in allegations of corruption by the Congress when it was in opposition between 2020-2023.

The Congress which came to power in May 2023 ordered the creation of an SIT to probe the Bitcoin scam from the BJP tenure on June 30, 2023.

© The Indian Express Pvt Ltd

First uploaded on: 25-05-2024 at 21:06 IST


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