The Bitcoin “scam” refuses to die down in Karnataka, with daily twists and turns threatening to uproot several political bigwigs in the state. In an embarrassment to the Basavaraj Bommai government, a letter purportedly written by a whistleblower to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has surfaced seeking a thorough probe into the alleged multi-million-dollar scam.
An alleged international hacker arrested by the police has allegedly claimed the transfer of Bitcoins worth thousands of crores into the accounts of big political leaders in the state. According to police, the accused named Sri Krishna told them about his “business”, claiming he had hacked into two cryptocurrency exchanges and stolen 5,000 Bitcoins worth over Rs 2,000 crore.
He had also allegedly revealed to the police that he had hacked several government websites and manipulated tenders worth hundreds of crores. He is also being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for the alleged cyber scams.
According to unconfirmed reports, he was forced to transfer these Bitcoins into the accounts of some top political leaders from the ruling BJP. The alleged role of some police officers has also come under the scanner.
Sri Krishna, in his 20s, was first arrested by the police in early 2018 in connection with an attack on a youth at a high-end pub in Bengaluru. Congress MLA NA Harris’ son Mohammed Nalapad was the main accused in that case. A clever hacker, Sri Krishna had managed to dodge the cops for over two years before being caught.
Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah has demanded answers from the Bommai government, saying a thorough probe should be ordered. “I have come to know that some top people in the government hold Bitcoins. How did they get them? I demand answers. The BJP should come clean about this huge scam,” the former CM said.
The opposition Congress has launched an all-out attack on the BJP government over the issue. KPCC president DK Shivakumar has dared the BJP government to arrest Congress leaders if they are involved in the scam. While MLA Priyank Kharge has predicted the collapse of Bommai government in the next few weeks, senior Congress MLA NA Harris has expressed displeasure over his son’s name being dragged into the alleged scam.
The government has claimed that the charges are completely baseless and that no one from the BJP was involved. Bommai, who met PM Narendra Modi on Thursday in New Delhi, dismissed media reports and opposition claims. Speaking to reporters, he said, “Home Minister Amit Shah has all central agencies under his command. Why would he ask me about it? The PM praised my government’s 100-day performance in office. I don’t want to add anything more.”
Home Minister Araga Jnanedra has dismissed reports that some FBI officials had come to Bengaluru from the US to interrogate Sri Krishna for the alleged cyber frauds targeting US-based companies. He has also dismissed reports that central agencies were camping in Bengaluru to monitor the investigation.
However, Congress has alleged that the BJP is trying to hush up the matter to save its leaders. A top police official has dismissed media reports about the alleged scam, saying these are Sri Krishna’s claims and that he has failed to provide any proof so far.
In early 2018, Nalapad had attacked a young man called Vidwath at a high-end pub in the city. He was sent to jail for over two months before being released on bail. Sri Krishna was also with Nalapad that night. He had fled after the incident, dodging the police for over two years. He was arrested last week by Bengaluru Police in connection with an assault and drugs consumption case. He was released on bail on Wednesday.
Speaking to the media for the first time, Sri Krishna proclaimed his innocence. “I have nothing to do with the so-called scam. Whatever the police are saying is untrue. There is no scam,” he said.