Rahul Gandhi says Karnataka Bitcoin scam big but cover-up much bigger, Cong seeks SC-monitored probe

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The Con­gress on Sat­ur­day alleged a mul­ti-crore Bit­coin scam and its cov­er-up by the BJP gov­ern­ment in Kar­nata­ka and demand­ed that an inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion be con­duct­ed into the mat­ter by a Supreme Court-mon­i­tored SIT. For­mer par­ty chief Rahul Gand­hi alleged that the scam is big but the cov­er-up is much bigger.

Tak­ing to Twit­ter, he said, “Bit­coin Scam is big. But Bit­coin Scam Cov­er-up is much big­ger. Because it has to cov­er up someone’s fake big ego.”

Address­ing a press con­fer­ence, Con­gress gen­er­al sec­re­tary and chief spokesper­son Ran­deep Sur­je­w­ala posed a set of six ques­tions to the prime min­is­ter and asked what was the role of Kar­nata­ka Chief Min­is­ter Basavaraj Bom­mai, who was the state’s home min­is­ter when the scam took place.

He asked why inter­na­tion­al inves­tiga­tive agen­cies, includ­ing the Inter­pol, were not informed about the stolen Bitcoins.

“India’s biggest ever ‘Bit­coin Scam’ has been unearthed in Kar­nata­ka. Instead of con­duct­ing a fair inves­ti­ga­tion, the BJP gov­ern­ment of Kar­nata­ka appears to be pre­oc­cu­pied with ‘Oper­a­tion Bit­coin Scam Coverup’,” he alleged.

“This is not a mon­ey laun­der­ing crime alone, this is an inter­na­tion­al crime. Con­sid­er­ing how shod­di­ly and com­pro­mised the inves­ti­ga­tion has been done, I don’t think that the ED (Enforce­ment Direc­torate) or Kar­nata­ka Police can do a fair job. That is why we demand that an SIT (spe­cial inves­ti­ga­tion team) should be set up and mon­i­tored by the Supreme Court which should inves­ti­gate this case and bring out the truth,” the Con­gress leader said.

Sur­je­w­ala also ques­tioned the silence of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi in the case and claimed that the prime min­is­ter was told by the FBI about it dur­ing his recent vis­it to the US.

“It is a mul­ti-coun­try inves­ti­ga­tion and the truth must come out. The gov­ern­ment is either col­lud­ing or is work­ing shod­di­ly in the inves­ti­ga­tion…. There are doubts being raised on the rep­u­ta­tion of Basavaraj Bom­mai and his polit­i­cal career and rep­u­ta­tion are at stake and that is why he should write to the gov­ern­ment for con­sti­tut­ing an SIT mon­i­tored by the SC to probe this,” he said.

Sur­je­w­ala, along with par­ty spokesper­son Gourav Val­labh, alleged that an alleged hack­er, Sri Krish­na, was arrest­ed along with his asso­ciate Robin Khan­del­w­al by the Kar­nata­ka Police on Novem­ber 14 last year and was kept in police cus­tody for over 100 days by repeat­ed­ly arrest­ing him in at least five crim­i­nal cas­es reg­is­tered one after the oth­er. He was released on bail on April 17 this year.

He alleged that Sri Krish­na made a vol­un­tary state­ment before the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mag­is­trate, Ben­galu­ru, some­time in Decem­ber 2020, where­in he has alleged­ly giv­en the names of var­i­ous for­eign companies/portals which were hacked by him, and mil­lions of dol­lars earned illegally.

The Con­gress lead­ers also alleged that Sri Krish­na was involved in alleged hack­ing of Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency exchanges and web­sites that includes from Bitfinex, reg­is­tered in not­ed tax haven, the British Vir­gin Islands and reports sug­gest that it was hacked on August 2, 2016 and 1,20,000 bit­coins were stolen. How­ev­er, in his vol­un­tary state­ment, he admits to hav­ing tak­en 2000 Bitcoins.

He said ‘Whale Alert’ is a Twit­ter account which tracks large scale cryp­tocur­ren­cy trans­ac­tions and it reflects that on Decem­ber 1, 2020, and on April 14, 2021, Bit­coins from the 2016 hack of Bitfinex Bit­coin exchange were trans­ferred and its val­ue comes out to be USD 704.8 mil­lion USD (equiv­a­lent to Rs 5,240 crore).

“Despite mul­ti­ple inter­na­tion­al crimes of sig­nif­i­cant mag­ni­tude, Inter­pol was not informed for over five months. Only on April 24, 2021, more than five months after the ini­tial arrest, did the Com­mis­sion­er of Police, Ben­galu­ru wrote to Inter­pol Liai­son Offi­cer (CBI) ask­ing to inform Inter­pol and oth­er agen­cies. Even ED/CBI/SFIO were not informed by the Karnataka’s BJP gov­ern­ment,” Sur­je­w­ala said, adding that Bom­mai was the state’s home min­is­ter between August 20, 2019, to July 28, 2021.

“Should the then Home Min­is­ter Basavaraj Bom­mai be pun­ished for not tak­ing action in the case,” he asked, alleg­ing that the fraud hap­pened under his watch and when the accused was kept in custody.

“Who are the actors in the ‘Bit­coin Coverup Scam’? Were the stolen bit­coins trans­ferred from the wal­let of alleged hack­er Sri Krish­na? How many bit­coins and of what val­ue? How does the Ben­galu­ru police then sug­gest (in its third Panch­na­ma dat­ed 22nd Jan­u­ary 2021) that the 31 and 186 Bit­coins alleged­ly trans­ferred to police wal­let were lost or were found to be fake trans­ac­tions,” he asked.

He also asked what was the role and respon­si­bil­i­ty of Bom­mai and oth­ers in the state government.

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