CBI denies FBI is in India to probe Karnataka Bitcoin scam

The scam was reported widely in November 2020 soon after the arrest of the 26-year-old hacker Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki by the Bengaluru Central Crime Branch police.
For representational purposes. (File Photo)
For representational purposes. (File Photo)

BENGALURU: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has denied media reports that said a team of sleuths from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is in India to probe into the Karnataka Bitcoin scam wherein politicians and police officials reportedly received kickbacks in the form of bitcoins from a hacker who was arrested by the Bengaluru Central Crime Branch police in connection with a drug case in November 2020.

In an official communication on Sunday, the CBI affirmed, “The FBI has not sent any team to India for conducting a probe in the matter nor has any request been made by FBI to CBI for conducting an investigation in this case in India. The question of any permission for the probe by the competent authority in India does not arise."

The CBI as the central investigating agency coordinates closely with international law enforcement agencies including the FBI.

Congress General Secretary in charge of Karnataka Randeep Singh Surjewala and Congress MLA from Chittapur Priyank Kharge had tweeted that the FBI is in India to investigate an alleged “Bitcoin scam” which the party had accused the BJP government in Karnataka of covering up last year.

“The FBI investigation into the Bitifinex hacking has revealed email IDs based out of India. Should the police here not investigate the matter? If the state investigates the case diligently, a lot of BJP’s skeletons will tumble out,” Kharge said.

Meanwhile, a report claimed that the FBI and other US agencies are investigating the theft of 1,19,754 bitcoins (valued at $4.5 billion at present) from the British Virgin Islands-based Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange.

The scam was reported widely in 2020 soon after the arrest of the 26-year-old hacker Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki who claimed to have hacked, among others, online gaming portals and state government’s e-procurement portal.

At the time leader of opposition in Karnataka, Siddaramaiah reportedly took to social media saying, "There is information about the involvement of influential politicians of Karnataka in Drugs & Bitcoin scam. It is concerning that the investigating officers are trying to close the case to help those politicians. @BJP4India govt should not use their power to divert the investigation. They should ensure that the guilty are punished."

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The New Indian Express