ALERT Crypto

Indian police arrest eight more in $300M crypto scam

Indian authorities have apprehended eight new individuals in connection with a sprawling $300 million (2500 crore Indian rupees) cryptocurrency scam that victimized approximately 100,000 people.

According to a report published by local news media outlet The Times of India, the arrests have been made as part of an ongoing investigation. Of the eight individuals arrested, four have been identified as police officers.

Long running scam

As the investigation has unfolded, it has revealed an operation which is alleged to have been masterminded by Subhash Sharma, who remains at large. What has been termed the Himachal Pradesh crypto scam began to unravel in late September, although the Indian authorities believe that the origins of the scam stretch back to 2018.

The perpetrators lured unsuspecting victims with investment schemes involving a local cryptocurrency known as Korvio Coin (KRO coins). As the scheme expanded, various other cryptocurrencies were introduced through fraudulent websites. One of these projects was abandoned after individuals had already invested, leading to significant financial losses.

Targeting police officers and government officials

The target audience for this particular scam has set it apart from that of others, given that police officers seem to have been involved while their colleagues are counted among the victims of the scam. Reports indicate that over 1,000 police personnel became entangled in the fraudulent web. While some officers were themselves victims, others made substantial gains. A few voluntarily took on the role of promoters, lending an air of credibility to the operation.

Alongside police officers, 5,000 government officials also fell prey to the fraudulent investment schemes. The gravity of the situation became evident when it was revealed that around 56 complaints had been filed with police stations over the past two years.

Multi-agency response

In response to mounting concerns, multiple agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate and regional police teams, embarked on a comprehensive investigation under the guidance of a Special Investigation Team (SIT). The investigation has uncovered that over 100 individuals profited to the tune of $240,000 each, while another 200 reaped around $120,000 each from the scam.

While the arrests have mounted to a total of 18 individuals, Sharma continues to evade capture. However, authorities have managed to identify and seize several properties associated with Sharma.

In a separate investigation, the Enforcement Directorate is scrutinizing the roles of five women suspected of working as agents or promoters for the elusive kingpin. These developments underscore the vast extent of this crypto scam and the imperative for swift and thorough legal action.

While crypto and Web3 more broadly have yet to fully unfold and reach full potential, there is no doubt that the sector has been blighted by ongoing scams, hacks and sharp practice. A recent report by Singapore-based blockchain security firm Immunefi estimated Q3 losses within the sector of $686 million.

In August, a $120 million crypto ponzi scheme was uncovered in India’s Odisha state. Meanwhile, authorities in Hong Kong continue to come to terms with a fraud perpetrated by Dubai-based crypto exchange platform JPEX.

As the investigation continues to unfold, the authorities are determined to bring all involved parties to justice, with a view towards sending a stern message to those who exploit unsuspecting individuals under the guise of cryptocurrency.

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