KOCHI: It required just a website — morriscoin.com — for 31-year-old Malappuram native Nishad K, currently holed up somewhere in the West Asia, to pull off the cryptocurrency fraud running into Rs 1,200 crore in the country. This huge amount of money was duped from thousands of people including non-resident Keralites (NRKs) promising high returns on investment in a non-existent cryptocurrency called ‘Morris Coin’.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which launched a probe into the fraud and attached the assets of Nishad and his conduits, found that the fund was invested in real estate and other projects in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Nishad, who created the website, didn’t even have any contact address or telephone numbers but people believed him and invested money on the assurance that they would get Morris Coin and three per cent of the invested amount as returns daily.
Though the police could arrest seven people in November 2021, mainly from Kannur, Kasaragod and Malappuram who operated as conduits of Nishad in collecting deposits from people, Nishad couldn’t be traced as he had gone underground after getting bail following his arrest in connection with a Morris Coin fraud case registered at Pookoottupadam police station in Malappuram on September 28, 2020.
The case against him at that time was for running an investment plan called ‘Morris Coin Investment Plan 300 days’.“At the time of his arrest, none thought the fraud would be of this magnitude. He managed to get bail and go into hiding,” said Kannur ACP P P Sadanandan.
Arrested people used bank accounts to collect money
P P Sadanandan was instrumental in exposing the cryptocurrency fraud by arresting the seven conduits of Nishad after police received complaints from people who lost money in the fraud. Sadanandan said the probe revealed that the arrested persons used their bank accounts to collect money from the people. As per the probe details, they used bank accounts with rural branches of Ujjivan Bank in Kerala to collect money from the people.
“During the probe, we could find transactions of Rs 90 crore to Rs 100 crore from the account of each of the arrested who helped Nishad to divert the money collected from people,” Sadanandan said. Kalamassery native Sufil Riswan, who lost Rs 1.05 lakh in the fraud, told TNIE that he came to know about Morris Coin from his friends in the UAE where he was working. “They lured people after giving three per cent of the invested amount as returns daily for a month.
People who initially invested smaller amounts like Rs 10,000 got attracted by this prompt payment and invested larger amounts, from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh,” Sulfil said, adding many of his friends in the UAE have lost money to the fraud but are remaining silent. Cryptocurrency consultant Sinjith K Nanminda said for many, cryptocurrency is still a grey area.
“People just know that the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin has increased exponentially in a span of ten years. A Bitcoin which cost Rs 500 in 2010 is now valued at Rs 30 lakh. It’s easy to dupe people in the name of cryptocurrency. Nishad also did the same and ignorant people fell for it,” said Nanminda. “Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Chainlink are like a commodity. Merely holding a cryptocurrency will not generate money. You need to trade it in exchanges to make money from it. It’s just like gold.
You need to sell the gold at the current market price to get money. Morris Coin was never listed on any of the cryptocurrency platforms. People should do thorough research on a cryptocurrency before investing in it. As per ‘coinmarketcap. com’, there are at least 8,000 cryptocurrencies listed in the world and we can’t say which of them are genuine. We only know a few famous cryptocurrencies,” he said.
FINDINGS OF ED PROBE
- The ED traced shell companies operated by Nishad to divert the money received as investments from the public and attached movable and immovable properties beloning to him and his associates worth Rs 36.72 crore.
- Nishad operated shell companies -- Long Rich Global, Long Rich Technologies and Morris Trading Solutions -- to transact money collected from the public in the guise of ‘Initial Coin Offer’for launch of Moris Coin cryptocurrency.
- “By organising promotional events featuring celebrities, introducing the investors to flashy websites and by the provision of e-wallets to each investor via web-based applications, the amounts were collected from the investors and siphoned them off via companies operated by him and his associates,” said a statement from ED.
- The collected fund was used for purchasing immovable properties, various other cryptocurrencies, luxury cars and having vacations in luxury hotels and resorts.
Nishad made tall claims on YouTube
In a video posted on the YouTube channel Longrich Technologies on September 2, 2020, Nishad K had made tall claims about the Morris Coin’s growth in a short time. He had said that after several
attempts Morris Coin could be listed with US-based exchange. He had said the Morris Coin company
was launched in February 2019 and it was great achievement that it was listing in an exchange
within one-and-half years.
WHAT IS MORRIS COIN
- To dupe people, Morris Coin was pitched as a multi-functional, next-generation cryptocurrency which was being developed on blockchain using cutting-edge technology
- Nishad collected deposits from the investors in the guise of Initial Coin Offer for the launch of Morris Coin cryptocurrency
- The depositors were promised 3% of the invested amount as daily returns and after the lock-in period of 300 days, they could get Morris Coin for the invested value and they could sell the coin in the international market