The Gujarat Police’s Crime Investigation Department on Sunday booked eight policemen, including an inspector, for allegedly abducting a Surat builder and extorting from him 200 bitcoins worth Rs 12 crore, The Hindu reported. This is perhaps one of the first extortion cases in India involving the cryptocurrency.
The eight policemen work at Amreli district’s local crime branch unit, Ashish Bhatia, the director general of police, CID (crime), told the Hindustan Times. Two of them, constables Babu Der and Vijay Vadher, have been arrested, while the others are yet to be traced, he said.
The police took action after businessman Shailesh Bhatt filed a complaint on February 23.
According to the complaint, the policemen called Bhatt to Gandhinagar on February 11. They then took him to a farmhouse and allegedly forced him to transfer 200 bitcoins to an unidentified account, Bhatia told the Hindustan Times. The policemen released Bhatt the same day after he promised to pay them Rs 32 crore.
Bhatia said the CID has not yet found proof of the bitcoin transfer, but there was evidence of the abduction and the ransom demand.
The FIR also names another individual who reportedly acted as the middleman between the businessman and the police, The Hindu reported.
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a payment platform that uses cryptocurrency – digital or virtual currencies that use cryptography to secure and verify transactions. While their popularity is growing, it is still a largely unregulated sector which means bitcoin and other such cryptocurrency platforms face increased scrutiny.
In 2017, both the Indian government and the Reserve Bank of India warned users against such virtual currencies. The government even compared them to ponzi schemes and warned traders of the risks, including “permanent loss of money”.