Bitcoin scam: Indian authorities seize scammer’s assets worth around $60 million
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), India's economic intelligence agency, has reportedly seized assets worth close to $60 million in connection with its probe against Amit Bhardwaj in the alleged Bitcoin Ponzi fraud of $5.26 billion.
According to a PTI report, the agency said that it had issued a provisional order for the attachment of properties under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The properties include six offices of the owner of GainBitcoin.com and the alleged kingpin of the scam in Dubai and India. It also includes the residential apartments and bank balances of two of his associates, Pankaj Adlakha and Hemant Bhope. This is the first attachment in the case where Bhardwaj started a company in Singapore -- Variabletech Pvt -- in 2015 and duped around 8,000 people into investing in his Bitcoin-trading Ponzi scheme, according to the ED investigation.
The alleged scammer lured people to invest in his fraudulent Ponzi scheme – he would hold marketing events at various hotels across the country and his associates would attract attendees towards their schemes. "Through this, Bhardwaj and his marketing agents were able to collect investments worth about 80,000 bitcoins," the agency told PTI. The ED added that instead of paying back the returns in Bitcoin as promised to the investors, returns were offered in Bhardwaj’s own newly-launched cryptocurrency token, which had almost no value on cryptocurrency exchanges.
In fact, Bhardwaj even roped in Bollywood celebrities, including Shilpa Shetty, Bipasha Basu,and Nargis Fakhri in order to promote his ebook -- Cryptocurrency for Beginners. Shilpa Shetty’s husband, Raj Kundra, a popular businessman, also faced the ED over his monetary involvement in Bhardwaj's company. Bhardwaj was arrested in April by the Pune police at the New Delhi airport, when he was returning from Dubai.
Image via Shutterstock
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