The Gujarat Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has booked a Surat-based builder for allegedly extorting over Rs 155 crore in cash and bitcoins from two persons, a senior official said today. The builder, Shailesh Bhatt, was the complainant in a bitcoin extortion case.
The CID-Crime lodged a fresh FIR against Bhatt and about nine of his accomplices yesterday at Surat after new details emerged during the ongoing probe into the original case, Director General of Police, CID-Crime, Ashish Bhatia, told reporters in Gandhinagar.
Two persons, including Shailesh Bhatt's nephew Nikunj Bhatt and Dilip Kanani, were also arrested yesterday from Surat on charges of kidnapping and extorting bitcoins and cash at the builder's behest, he said.
After the arrest, the sleuths recovered 152 bitcoins (Rs 8.58 crore), which were in Kanani's wallet, Bhatia said.
Bhatt had earlier alleged that some Amreli policemen extorted "bitcoins worth Rs 9 crore" from him four months back.
While probing his complaint, the CID officials learnt that Bhatt had extorted bitcoins worth crores from others before he was kidnapped by the Amreli police.
"Around two years back, one Satish Kumbhani of Surat floated a company called 'Bit Connect' and lured people like Bhatt to invest in it to get huge returns. Bhatt had invested Rs 2 crore in it. However, its promoters shut shop in January this year and went underground," said Bhatia.
To recover his investment, Bhatt's accomplices first kidnapped Piyush Savalia by posing as Income Tax officials, as Savalia used to work for that company, he said.
Savalia was confined in a farm house at gun-point for three days in January-end, the official said.
"On February 1, Bhatt's men kidnapped Dhaval Mavani at gun-point, as the latter was also attached with the bankrupt firm. Bhatt's accomplices forced Mavani to transfer 2,256 bitcoins worth Rs 131 crore into their account. The builder and his accomplices had also transferred another 166 bitcoins worth Rs 9.64 crore into their account," said Bhatia.
To set Mavani free, Bhatt and his accomplices also extorted Rs 14.50 crore cash, which the builder received through the 'Angadia' service (an unofficial cash courier service), he said.
"Bhatt and his accomplices extorted bitcoins and cash worth a total of Rs 155.21 crore. Later, they distributed the bitcoins among themselves. Bhatt had kept around 700 bitcoins," the CID official said.
Since Bhatt is not tech-ssavvy, he took help of his nephew Nikunj Bhatt to transfer these bitcoins, he said.
The entire conspiracy was unearthed when Savalia was questioned by the CID recently, Bhatia said.
Bhatt had even paid Rs 34.50 lakh to Savalia to keep mum and also to give a false statement that he was never kidnapped by the builder and his men, he said.
While two persons, including Bhatt's nephew, have already been arrested on charges of kidnapping and extortion, a search is on for others, said Bhatia.
The original case pertains to a complaint filed with the CID-Crime three months back by Shailesh Bhatt.
Bhatt had alleged that Amreli policemen had kidnapped him, and his business partner Kirit Paladia, from Gandhinagar on February 9 and extorted bitcoins, which were in the possession of Paladia.
Bhatt had alleged that former BJP MLA Nalian Kotadiya was also involved in this conspiracy of extorting bitcoins worth over Rs 9 crore.
So far, Bhatt's business partner Paladia, Amreli Superintendent of Police Jagdish Patel, Amreli local Crime Branch inspector Anant Patel, two constables and a middleman have been arrested in the case.
Seven constables of Amreli district police, allegedly involved in the case, are still on the run.
Recently, a sessions court here had also issued arrest warrant against Nalin Kotadiya, who has been evading arrest ever since his involvement was surfaced during the probe.
Bitcoin is a type of digital money that is issued and normally controlled by its developers and used and accepted among the members of the virtual community.
The Centre has said it does not recognise bitcoin or any other crypto-currency as legal tender in India.