Tuesday, 24 May, 2022
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Amid political pressure over alleged bitcoin scam in Karnataka, hacker arrested – over a brawl

Hacker Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki is being investigated in the multi crore scam currently by three different departments -- the Enforcement Directorate, Cyber Crimes wing of the CID and the Central Crime Branch of Bengaluru police.

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Bengaluru: Days after political pressure started building up on Basavaraj Bommai’s government over an alleged multi crore bitcoin scam, the main accused in the case — Srikrishna — was arrested Saturday by Bengaluru police.  

While Srikrishna alias Sriki is out on bail in multiple cases — ranging from attempt to murder, cybercrimes, cryptocurrency thefts and drug peddling — he was arrested over a brawl at a luxury hotel Saturday.

Srikrishna’s arrest comes at a time the opposition in Karnataka has been accusing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders of being involved with the accused and trying to protect big names in the alleged multi crore bitcoin fiasco.  

“We have registered a case against Srikrishna and his friend Vishnu based on the complaint of duty manager at a hotel in Bengaluru. Charges of wrongful restraint, trespassing and voluntarily causing hurt have been filed against the accused,” SD Sharanappa, DCP (East) told ThePrint. “The accused were found to be on drugs. We subjected them to medical tests and the results have confirmed that they had consumed drugs,” the DCP added.

Srikrishna’s criminal activities of hacking crypotocrrency exchanges, international banks, private and government companies and portals to steal funds apart from other cybercrimes came to the fore in 2020 when he was arrested in a drugs case. The second accused arrested by Bengaluru police Saturday has been identified as the son of a popular jewellery store chain owner in South India.

The Karnataka government is reportedly considering transferring all cases involving the 25-year-old Sriki to the CID.

Also read: What is the bitcoin scam & who is the 25 yr-old that has put the BJP govt in Karnataka in a spot

BJP govt under Opposition fire

Sources in the BJP told ThePrint that the noise over the alleged cyrptocurrency crime has put the State leadership in a spot.

In a chargesheet filed before an additional Chief Metropolitian Magistrate court earlier this year, the Central Crime Branch (CCB) police had claimed that Srikrishna had confessed to hacking several influential social media accounts, breaking into government portals, bitcoin exchanges etc. The chargesheet detailed his partnership with Kolkata-based Robin Khandelwal, a cyrptocurrency trader.

“While in police custody, Srikrishna told the officers that he had private keys in his cloud account which he could use to transfer the bitcoins he had stolen to authorities for seizure,” an IG-rank officer in the know of investigation told The Print. “In cases such, authorities have to treat the loot as ‘perishables’. A recovery has to be made and shown to court, permission has to be sought from the court to monetize the loot and return it to the rightful owners. This hasn’t happened in this case,” the officer pointed out.

While the CCB police initially claimed that 31 bitcoins had been recovered from Srikrishna, the claim was withdrawn.

On the political front, Congress leaders have alleged that senior leaders of the BJP have “profited” from the hacker. KPCC President DK Shivakumar has sought a judicial inquiry in the matter.

Leader of the opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly Siddaramaiah — the first politician to raise the issue of alleged bitcoin scam in the State — has been continuously attacking the government demanding answers on status of bitcoins allegedly held by the accused.

(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)

Also read: Gangs of Bengaluru: ‘Silent’ Sunil, Ajith ‘Malayali’ & the dark underbelly of India’s IT capital


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