KOCHI: For rich Malayalees, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have become a red-hot investment option over the past couple of years. But with the Maharashtra Police busting the largest ever cryptocurrency fraud after registering a case against Money Trade Coin (MTC) owned by Amit Lakhanpal, Kerala Police have decided to train its officers on frauds being committed in the name of virtual money.Police officers said the training programme will be aimed at familiarising police personnel with cryptocurrencies and how they could be used by fraudsters to dupe people.
Though many people from the state have invested in various cryptocurrencies, they have preferred to keep their investments a closely guarded secret fearing legal action or shame for supporting a trade that is not legally approved in India. To be sure, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has barred banks from dealing in cryptocurrencies.The RBI has directed all entities regulated by it to not deal with or provide services to any individual or entity dealing with virtual currencies in view of the associated risks.
Thane Crime Branch Senior Inspector Nitin Thakre, who is probing the MTC fraud case, told Express that a lot of people had made investments in Lakhanpal’s company. “We are verifying the details. So far, we have not received any complaint from anybody in Kerala,” he said.As per an investigation by the Maharashtra Police, at least 45,000 people had downloaded the MTC app, while more than 10,000 people had invested nearly `500 crore in the company.
“It’s obvious that Malayalees will easily fall prey to such easy money schemes. Whenever some firm comes out with a Ponzi or MLM (multi-level marketing) scheme to make easy money, people from Kerala will be the first to invest in them,” said Kerala Police IT wing SP J Jayanath.It was a youngster from Kerala who took to change.org in August 2017 to start a petition against New Delhi-based company GB Miners and its owner Amit Bhardwaj. In his petition, Zakhil Suresh had alleged that he and his friends lost money after buying Bitcoins from the company.
But there are Malayalis who still swear by the logic of investing in Bitcoins. Nelvin Joseph, a Hyderabad-based software professional, said he has been making such investments for the past two months.
“We need not go for a third party agents like Gain Bitcoins to buy Bitcoins or other renowned cryptocurrencies,” he said. “We can buy cryptos directly from Bitcoin and safe deposit them in our e-wallet. There are also international trade agencies through which we can convert it into other currencies.”
Mum’s the word
Though many people from Kerala have invested in cryptocurrencies, they have preferred to keep their investments a closely guarded secret fearing legal action or shame for supporting a trade that is not legally approved in India