The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), in its probe into the Bitcoin scandal in Karnataka, said that police inspector Prashanth Babu and tech expert Santosh Kumar transferred bitcoins into a cryptocurrency hardware wallet. However, the value of the bitcoins transferred is under investigation.
A remand report filed by the police showed that these bitcoins were seized from Srikrishna Ramesh, alias Sriki, the prime accused in the Bitcoin scam, and his accomplice Robin Kandelwala.
Officials said, the report also shows that two more accused, Gagan Jain, a cyber security expert and Sathvik V, director of Unocoin Technologies Private Limited, assisted the accused in the destruction of crucial evidence.
The SIT also discovered an email sent by Sriki to a woman while he was in police custody. However, the exact amount of coins transferred remains undisclosed and SIT is still investigating it.
The case diary further showed Babu’s alleged efforts, with the assistance of Kumar, Jain, and Sathvik, to destroy crucial evidence. Their actions reportedly included erasing vital details from Sriki’s bitcoin wallets stored on the Amazon Cloud server and deleting bash history to conceal their tracking by the investigators.
“They erased the important details related to Sriki’s bitcoin wallets in the Amazon Cloud server and deleted the bash history with the sole intention of hiding the evidence from the investigation,” the remand application reads.
SIT has accessed the email dump of Sriki during his time in Ashok Nagar police custody on January 22, 2021. “In the email dump of Sriki, we have found that when Sriki was in Ashok Nagar police custody on January 22, 2021, he sent an email to a female friend explaining his situation in police custody. It is considered that Sriki was given a laptop, internet and a free hand to use them when in police custody for some ulterior motives,” the remand application reads.
The SIT’s remand application sheds light on Kumar’s involvement in procuring Nano Ledgers from Gujarat, with three cryptocurrency hardware wallets allegedly acquired and one provided to Babu.
According to SIT, there was a “substantial” transfer of bitcoins to one of these Nano Ledgers during Sriki and Kandelwala’s illegal police custody.
Surya Mukundaraj, general secretary of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee’s (KPCC) legal cell and official spokesperson expressed his displeasure with the investigation.
“Amid mounting concerns, questions arise regarding the initial FIR, which implicated only five low-ranking police officers. The subsequent petition filed by the SIT to expand the FIR and include additional suspects highlights suspicions of oversight or external influence, prompting scrutiny of the investigation’s integrity,” Mukundaraj said.
The SIT mentioned the involvement of Shridhar Pujar in Sriki and Kandelwala’s illegal custody multiple times and he was not arrested.
Reacting to this question, SIT chief Manish Karbikar said, “We are collecting more evidence about the other accused persons in the case. The investigation is underway.”
Mukundaraj questioned the SIT’s approach.
“Without the instructions of superior officers, Shridhar Pujar or Prashanth Babu would not have acted on their own. Why there is no mention of senior officers’ including the IPS cadre’s names in the FIR? And why did the SIT delay the expansion of the investigation’s scope by adding ‘And others’ after a day of filing FIR?,” Mukundaraj questioned.
Meanwhile, SIT has objected to the anticipatory bail application filed by the founders of a cryptocurrency firm, Sathvik V and Harish B V, who previously aided the Bengaluru police in a 2020 investigation involving hacker Srikrishna Ramesh.
Sathvik and Harish faced opposition to their bail plea during a hearing in a special court held on Monday.
The SIT has issued notices to summon the Unocoin founders Sathvik and Harish for questioning in connection with an FIR registered on January 24. The FIR pertains to alleged malpractices in the investigation of several cases against Sriki, who was apprehended in November 2020. The FIR implicates a cyber expert and four former police officers from the Bengaluru Crime Branch.