The Crime Investigation Department in India’s western state of Gujarat has filed a first investigation report (FIR) against ten police officers. The ten Gujarat state policemen have been accused of kidnapping, corruption and alleged extortion of a local businessman. According to the victim’s statement, he paid a ransom of 200 bitcoins to negotiate his release.
According to reports by local daily publication, Ahmedabad Mirror, Surat resident and builder Shailesh Bhatt lodged a complaint dated February 23, 2018, stating that he was, along with two others, abducted from a petrol pump in the vicinity of Gandhinagar. The victims were traveling in a Toyota Fortuner on February 14, 2018, when the incident took place. His driver and close aide, Kirit Paladiya, were present with him in the car when the accused, PI Anant Patel and other police officers, abducted and took them to a farmhouse.
It is further alleged that the businessman and his friends were unofficially detained, harassed and also beaten up. After thrashing the duo, the police personnel then transferred forced Kirit Paladiya to transfer 200 BTC from his mobile.
A while later, Shailesh Bhatt was forced to pay another 340 million INR ($5.2 million) to PI Anant Patel and 7.9 million INR ($121,051) through Signes Jewellers to Raju Tatamiya. The accused released the trio on February 15, 2018, after receiving the transferred bitcoin.
Once the case was registered, the investigating team swung into action quickly and began following the trail. The probe has so far revealed that the accused police team went from Amreli to Gandhinagar in three police jeeps. Accompanied along with them was an individual named Pratap Der, who was also named in the FIR.
The CID probe has not only confirmed that the individuals were held for some amount of ransom, but also that the accused policemen threatened to falsify complaints against them. The ransom was then paid by the builder and his businessman friend via hawala for their release.
However, it is yet to be ascertained whether the 200 bitcoin were also transferred to the account of PI Anant Patel by Kirit Paladiya. While the victim’s mobile phone, used to transfer the bitcoin, was sent to forensic labs, nothing concrete has been found yet. The investigating team is also trying to ascertain the role of Ketan Patel; the man believed to be a key member in orchestrating the crime.
Another case against the policemen has also been registered under the Indian economic offences and corruption laws. On the other hand, The Economic Offences Wing has also opened up an investigation to find the trail of the money that was paid through the hawala route.
Ashish Bhatia, DGP Crime said, “FIR has been filed on the basis of evidence found by the team so far. In his application, Shailesh Bhatt had mentioned the transfer of 200 bitcoin 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 bitcoin back. All these transactions mentioned in the application could not be proven.”
So far, three constables have been arrested while the rest six accused are on the run.