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Indian cop arrested for stealing over $200K in Bitcoin tied to a scam probe

An Indian police officer has been arrested for siphoning off INR 1.8 crores worth of Bitcoin, approximately $216,000, related to a crypto scam investigation.

Per a local report, Chandrahar SR, a former police inspector with the Central Crime Branch (CCB), illegally accessed the Bitcoin wallet of a hacker, which was evidence in an ongoing investigation.

The crypto scam being investigated dates back to 2017. 

Srikrishna Ramesh, a hacker, and his associate Robin Khandelwal were the masterminds behind the scam. The duo hacked cryptocurrency exchanges like Bitfinex, Unocoin, and other online platforms and made approximately INR 5.5 crore ($660,000) in funds via their operations.

Ramesh then tried to launder the stolen funds via Khandelwal using Bitcoin but was ultimately arrested in 2020.

The Crime Branch had initially reported that the Bitcoins could not be recovered, prompting an investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT). Investigators had blamed Ramesh for manipulating “the Bitcoin core application” to mislead the investigation.

Chandrahar, who was one of the crime branch officers involved in the investigation, is now being accused of accessing the hacker’s wallet and stealing Bitcoin. The SIT alleges he had taken Khandelwal into custody and coerced him to transfer the funds. 

Further, the accused destroyed all evidence related to the transactions.

According to the FIR filed by the SIT,  Chandradhar, along with two other CCB officers, collaborated with Santosh Kumar, a private cyber expert, to access the wallet in question. 

The accused accessed the Bitcoin wallet at Kumar’s Bengaluru office between December 30, 2020, and January 6, 2021.

Chandrahar, along with Kumar and the other officers, have all been charged with illegal confinement, breach of trust by a public servant, and destruction of evidence related to the Bitcoin scam.

Chanrahar had been evading law enforcement since he was summoned for questioning. He was arrested by the SIT from his residence in North Bengaluru.

Besides Chandrahar, two other unnamed police officers have also been arrested in relation to the Bitcoin scam investigation.

India has seen an uptick in activity when it comes to scams and frauds. This has prompted regulators to tighten their oversight of the nation’s crypto sector.