Cryptokidnapping, or How to Lose $3 Billion of Bitcoin in India
Accusations of tax evasion and police corruption, a kidnapper who was kidnapped, a fugitive politician, and billions in bitcoin lost. This is crypto-trading Gujarat-style. The ingredients are part of an investigation in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state into allegations that investors poured cash into a bitcoin-based Ponzi scheme that could exceed the country’s largest banking scandal. The fallout extends as far as Texas and has embroiled a former lawmaker, tarnishing Modi’s ruling party months before an election. It began in February, when property developer Shailesh Bhatt charged into the Home Minister’s office in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, claiming he had been kidnapped by a group of policemen and told to pay 200 bitcoin, worth some $1.8 million at the time, for his release. He said he had nowhere else to go. The state’s elite Criminal Investigation Department was called in and the evidence it has uncovered points to a potential fraud on an epic scale. Eight policemen have been indicted and suspended pending trial. The abduction was allegedly spearheaded by Bhatt’s associate, Kirit Paladiya, and masterminded by Paladiya’s uncle Nalin Kotadiya, a former lawmaker in Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, according to Ashish Bhatia, the lead CID investigator. Bhatt has been charged too, as the allegations of kidnapping widened.