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A multi-crore cryptocurrency scam in Pune

One of the accused is a former IPS officer

A multi-crore cryptocurrency scam in Pune
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Mumbai: Two cyber experts have been nabbed by the Pune city police for their alleged involvement in a multi-crore cryptocurrency.

The accused have been identified as Pankaj Prakash Ghode (38), a resident of Tadiwala Road, and Ravindranath Prabhakar Patil (45), who is a resident of Bhiwandi. Interestingly, one of the accused, Patil, is a former IPS officer of 2005 batch. However, he had quit police service after working for a few years. Interestingly the services of the two experts, who are in police custody now, had been sought by the police for probing a cryptocurrency fraud which was unearthed way back in 2018.

It was in April 2018, when the Pune city police had busted a racket in which several persons were cheated by offering lucrative returns by investing money in cryptocurrency. IPS officer Rashmi Shukla was the commissioner of Pune city police at that time. Two FIRs were lodged at Dattawadi and Nigdi police stations for probing the fraud, under sections 406, 409, 420, 120 b, 109, 201 of the IPC and sections of the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (MPID) Act.

The inquiry confirmed that the two had manipulated screenshots and transferred cryptocurrency seized from the accused in two cases – one at Nigdi and one at Dattawadi police station in 2018.

Police had arrested as many as 17 persons in these cases and help was sought from cyber experts Pankaj Ghode of 'Global Blockchain Foundation, Pune' and Ravindra Patil of the 'K P M G, Pune' for gathering technical evidence and seizure of cryptocurrency.

Talking to Bizz Buzz, Amitabh Gupta, Commissioner of Pune City Police said, "We had been looking into the case for last one and half years to establish the link of 60 Bitcoins which was quite a tedious and impossible task. However, we have been able to do it successfully."

The value of the Bitcoins in question is assumed to be Rs 30 crore, keeping in view the present value of each Bitcoin at Rs 50 lakh, he added.

Police had arrested as many as 17 persons in these cases and help was sought from cyber experts Pankaj Ghode of 'Global Blockchain Foundation, Pune' and Ravindra Patil of the 'K P M G, Pune' for gathering technical evidence and seizure of cryptocurrency.

A police statement said that additional director general of police (Economic offences), Maharashtra had ordered an inquiry as the role of cyber experts in seizure of cryptocurrency from the accused persons was found to be suspicious. Accordingly, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cyber and EOW) Bhagyashree Navtake conducted an inquiry.

Ghode and Patil had seized 241.47858055 bitcoins, 452 bitcoin cash and 94.254124 either from the accused persons. The then investigating officers had handed over technical data recovered from the accused persons to the cyber expert. They were supposed to show utmost sincerity and professional ethics. But Patil allegedly misused the technical data and transferred cryptocurrency from the national and international wallets of the accused to the crypto currency wallets of his and other aides. Also, Ghode allegedly misled the investigating officers by forging the screenshots of the wallet blockchain during seizure of panchanama.

The statement added that the cyber experts did not seize all the cryptocurrency recovered from the accused persons and cheated the government by producing false information about the seizures. So, a fresh offence of cheating and forgery has been lodged against Ghode and Patil. Inspector Jayant Rajurkar (42) of crime branch lodged an FIR at the cyber police station on Friday last. The two accused were arrested and produced before a court on Saturday which remanded them to police custody till March 19.

Kumud Das
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