Indian authorities arrest ringleaders of $120M crypto scam
The organizers ran extensive scams disguised as promotional events on hundreds of thousands of victims.
Authorities in India have apprehended the perpetrators behind a multi-million dollar cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme, as reported by The Indian Express on Aug. 8.
The fraud involved a cryptocurrency project known as STA Crypto Token, which purported to leverage solar technologies and blockchain technology.
According to the latest reports, the scam succeeded in stealing Rs 1,000 (10 billion rupees or $120 million) from its victims. Roughly 200,000 individuals, including 10,000 in the state of Odisha, were targeted by and invested in the scam.
The Economic Offence Wing of the Odisha police arrested two individuals tied to STA Token: Gurtej Singh Sidhu, who headed the project, and his associate, Nirod Das.
As per law enforcement reports, Sidhu avoided arrest by frequently relocating between cities. Jai Narayan Pankaj, Inspector-General of the Economic Offense Wing, said that law enforcement had been chasing Sidhu “for the past few days.”
Police noted that they discovered transactions amounting to more than Rs 30 crore (300 million rupees or $3.6 million) in Das’s bank account.
Scam operated in multiple regions
Police said that the scam operated in several districts but did not gain approval to accept customer deposits from the Reserve Bank of India or other authorities.
They added that the supposed crypto token was in fact a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme or Ponzi scam that used buzzwords, especially eco-friendly promises, to disguise its fraudulent nature. Police emphasized that the scam’s leaders ran an extensive promotional scheme, organizing events such as lunch and dinner parties at expensive hotels that featured guest speakers and musical performances.
The project’s website was hosted in Iceland, but the scam nevertheless operated exclusively in India, according to the latest report.
This crypto scam is not a standalone case in India. In April, officials froze nearly $12 million related to a project called HPZ token. CNBC has identified Morris coin, GainBitcoin, and a Karnataka-based scam as other recent India-based crypto frauds.