A man who stands accused of a range of Bitcoin-related fraud charges has had a range of properties belonging to him all over the world taken over by police.
Amit Bhardwaj, who is accused of participating in a Bitcoin Ponzi scheme worth over $5bn US dollars, has seen a range of his assets taken into public care – including office spaces in Dubai.
The moves were taken by India’s Directorate of Enforcement. The total cash value of Bhardwaj’s seized properties rests in the area of $60 million, and the assets were seized under the auspices of the Anti Money Laundering Act.
Bhardwaj, who also used the names GainBitcoin.com and Variabletech Pvt Ltd Singapore as part of his alleged scams, stands accused of playing a role in one of India’s largest ever alleged cryptocurrency frauds.
He is accused of defrauding eight thousand people, which makes this case one of the most widespread in the country’s recent memory.
According to police, he would begin by hiring high-end spaces, such as hotels, to run conferences promoting the scheme.
However, while some of those who attended these events found themselves hooked, others were not so sure. One reporter said that they had been shown a video of a Bitcoin mine which GainBitcoin.com claimed was their own – but was, in fact, a video from the VICE-owned technology news website Motherboard.
Once his investors had made their Bitcoin purchases, Bhardwaj provided them with a cryptocurrency of his own known as MCAP which did not have anywhere near the same value as Bitcoin.
Another of the hallmarks of this alleged case was the extent to which Bhardwaj supposedly made use of digital marketing techniques to bolster his allegedly fraudulent activities.
In order to falsely emphasise the importance of MCAP, for example, he took out sponsored news stories in the Indian media.
He also involved famous figures from the entertainment world and got them to spread the word about an e-book he’d written, including the actress Shilpa Shetty.
A statement from the Directorate of Enforcement emphasised the extent of Bhardwaj’s alleged crime.
“There are large numbers of investors who got cheated in this way”, investigators said.
The extent of the Indian law enforcement team’s investigation into Bhardwaj is demonstrated by their decision to also take action against two of his alleged accomplices.
Hemant Bhope and Pankaj Adlakha have both had their accounts frozen and seen their personal homes taken over by police.
According to industry media, Bhardwaj himself was taken into custody at the airport in the Indian capital of New Delhi after he landed on a flight from Dubai.
He has subsequently offered to provide cash refunds to those who invested in his scheme, but he is so far believed to have only made the offer in the local Indian currency – the rupee – rather than in Bitcoin, which was the instrument used originally.
However, given the changes in value which Bitcoin has experienced in recent months, there is concern over whether or not this proposed settlement is fair.