Digital currency

Cryptocurrency rackets: Delhi police prepare to question ‘mastermind’ of Rs 2,000-crore Bitcoin scam

Amit Bhardwaj of Gain Bitcoin was arrested earlier this month after eight months on the run.

As the Delhi police prepare to interrogate Amit Bhardwaj, the alleged mastermind of a Rs 2,000-crore Bitcoin mining scam, they fear that his sophisticated cryptocurrency racket may be just the “tip of the iceberg”. Indeed, just last week, the police claimed to have busted another virtual currency racket run by two men from Haryana and involving around 5,000 investors.

Bhardwaj, accused of duping thousands of people over three years, was arrested on April 5. He had been on the run for nearly eight months after fleeing India, prompting the Enforcement Directorate to issue a lookout notice against him. Late last year, he was found at the Dubai airport but escaped detention by feigning a heart attack and fled to Bangkok. Then early this month, Thai security agencies alerted Indian officials that Bhardwaj was travelling to Delhi. He was detained at the airport.

He is currently held by the police in Pune, where most of the complaints against him are registered. “This week, we shall move an application to the concerned court in Pune seeking custody of Bhardwaj,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, Bhisham Singh. “He has to be interrogated in connection with two separate cases registered against him in Delhi.”

Bhardwaj, 35, left his job in a major IT company to launch India’s first online retail marketplace that accepted bitcoin in 2014. The venture soon failed, the police said, and Bhardwaj founded a series of Bitcoin mining firms such as Gain Bitcoin, GB Miners and MCAP. It was through these companies that he duped investors.

Sophisticated scam

As reported in January, police in Mumbai and Delhi have busted around a dozen rackets duping people on the pretext of investing in cryptocurrencies. In most of the cases, the investors knew little about virtual currency and invested solely because they had heard about the exponential rise in the value of Bitcoin, the world’s first cryptocurrency. But the companies they invested in either mined cryptocurrencies that had no value in the virtual stock market or did not mine real cryptocurrencies at all.

Bhardwaj’s game was more sophisticated. “He knew the business,” said an architect who invested in Gain Bitcoin and asked not to be identified. “His idea was simple but technically strong. Individual Bitcoin mining would yield less rewards. So, his idea was to pool resources for collective mining of Bitcoins, generating potentially higher returns. The investment too was to be done in Bitcoins and the return was supposed to come in Bitcoins, at a rate of 10% per year for 18 months. But the returns never came.”

Bhardwaj has, in fact, written three books on cryptocurrencies and his work has been endorsed by celebrities and industry lobbies such as Assocham, as last year’s exposé of his schemes by the Caravan magazine pointed out.

Unlike most other cryptocurrency rackets whose victims did not know much about the virtual currency ecosystem, Bhardwaj’s targets ranged from regular cryptocurrency investors and IT workers to corporate executives and political leaders, the police said.

“While the initial idea was that of collective investment for Bitcoin mining, Bhardwaj later started more companies operating on a multi-level marketing scheme,” said another investor, a postgraduate student. “This made the initial set of investors suspicious. The new investors, whom he roped in through old investors, needed no technical idea of how cryptocurrencies worked. They were told their money would be invested in Bitcoin and they would be paid back in cash. But that did not happen.”

Multi-level marketing is the strategy of businesses enterprises paying their agents or investors to recruit new agents or investors. The payment is usually a share of the business the new clients bring in.

By early 2017, Bhardwaj had floated cryptocurrencies of his own and was getting people to invest in them rather than collective Bitcoin mining, the police said. But his cryptocurrencies failed to pick up value in the virtual stock markets as promised and the investors grew agitated, with many of them filing police complaints in Pune and Delhi.

Bhardwaj’s scam, the Delhi police worry, could be the tip of the sophisticated cryptocurrency rackets targeting Indian investors. The Crime Branch has now formed a special team to look into such matters, Bhisham Singh said.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

The cost of setting up an employee-friendly office in Mumbai

And a new age, cost-effective solution to common grievances.

A lot has been theorised about employee engagement and what motivates employees the most. Perks, bonuses and increased vacation time are the most common employee benefits extended to valuable employees. But experts say employees’ wellbeing is also intimately tied with the environment they spend the bulk of the day in. Indeed, the office environment has been found to affect employee productivity and ultimately retention.

According to Gensler’s Workplace Index, workplace design should allow employees to focus, collaborate, learn and socialise for maximum productivity, engagement and overall wellbeing. Most offices lag on the above counts, with complaints of rows of cluttered desks, cramped work tables and chilled cubicles still being way too common.

But well-meaning employers wanting to create a truly employee-centric office environment meet resistance at several stages. Renting an office space, for example, is an obstacle in itself, especially with exorbitant rental rates prevalent in most business districts. The office space then needs to be populated with, ideally, ergonomic furniture and fixtures. Even addressing common employee grievances is harder than one would imagine. It warrants a steady supply of office and pantry supplies, plus optimal Internet connection and functioning projection and sound systems. A well-thought-out workspace suddenly begins to sound quite cost prohibitive. So, how can an employer balance employee wellbeing with the monthly office budget?

Co-working spaces have emerged as a viable alternative to traditional workspaces. In addition to solving a lot of the common problems associated with them, the co-working format also takes care of the social and networking needs of businesses and their employees.

WeWork is a global network of workspaces, with 10 office spaces in India and many more opening this year. The co-working giant has taken great care to design all its premises ergonomically for maximum comfort. Its architects, engineers and artists have custom-designed every office space while prioritising natural light, comfort, productivity, and inspiration. Its members have access to super-fast Internet, multifunction printers, on-site community teams and free refreshments throughout the day. In addition, every WeWork office space has a dedicated community manager who is responsible for fostering a sense of community. WeWork’s customised offerings for enterprises also work out to be a more cost-effective solution than conventional lease setting, with the added perks of WeWork’s brand of service.

The video below presents the cost breakdown of maintaining an office space for 10 employees in Vikhroli, Mumbai and compares it with a WeWork membership.


To know more about WeWork and its office spaces in India, click here.

This article was produced by Scroll marketing team on behalf of WeWork and not by the Scroll editorial team.