by Kieran Smith
Two months into the investigation of the Bitcoin extortion in India, the Crime Investigation Department has arrested seven constables from Amreli district in connection with the case.
The original complaint was made by Bhatt, a builder based in Surat, who alleged that the Amreli police had kidnapped him and his partner Paladiya, and extorted over Rs 9 crore worth of Bitcoins from Paladiya.
The seven police constables in question – Sanjaybhai Padmani, Noorbhai Sirman, Mayurbhai Mangroliya, Pratapbhai Der, Jagdishbhai Jhankat, Sureshbhai Khuman and Umedkumar Mehta – are now facing court, after their arrest.
The investigation seeks to find out whether or not these constables got any share in the money received by police inspector Anant Patel.
They will also be questioned on why they had gone to Mumbai, and what happened there after the 200 Bitcoins were extorted from complainant Shailesh Bhatt and his partner Kirit Paladiya, who was also later arrested as a conspirator in the case after investigations revealed that he was the mastermind behind the entire conspiracy to take 176 bitcoins from Bhatt, and distribute the money amongst themselves and the police personnel under question.
The offenses they are liable for range from abduction, to the attempt of extortion by a government employee.
However, as of yet, the probe has not been able to establish that any transactions in Bitcoin or cash took place. Ashish Bhatia, of the Crime Investigation Department, said that “At the moment, three persons including two from Amreli police and a private individual from Surat have been apprehended in the case as a special investigation team has been formed for further probe”
Not Guilty of Extortion?
After the fortnight-long investigation concluded, therefore, the only crime that they have been able to detect was the attempt at extortion by the accused ten policemen, and the abduction of the victim.
The First Information Report, filed on the basis of evidence so far, mentions that the alleged transactions could not be proved:
“Shailesh Bhatt had mentioned the transfer of 200 Bitcoins worth Rs 12 crore from the digital wallet of his business partner, Kirit Paladiya. Another Rs 32 crore were allegedly paid for their release from a farmhouse. Later, Rs 78.5 lakh were allegedly paid to get the Bitcoins back. All these transactions mentioned in the application could not be proven.”
According to the FIR, Amreli police inspector Anant Patel, with nine police constables traveling in three police vehicles, abducted Bhatt, Paladiya, and Bhatt’s driver Mahipal from Nidhi Petrol Pump near the Koba crossroads in Ahmedabad on February 14, 2018.
They then took the captives to Keshav Farm at Magodi village near Dehgam, where Patel allegedly threatened Bhatt and Paladiya into transferring the Bitcoin.