Bengaluru: As the fire around the bitcoin scam seemed to be closing in on Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, he got a solid firewall from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who told the CM not to be perturbed by such wild speculations.
“The bitcoin issue did not come up for discussion (with the PM). When I tried to broach the topic, he said not to worry,” Bommai told reporters.
State Congress president DK Shivakumar wondered why Bommai was so anxious to brief the PM about it. He should place before people all case facts including the money trail and whether there had been money laundering, he added.
Bommai lobbed the bitcoin scam into the Congress court saying “there are names of Congress leaders in the bitcoin scam. Let the Congress worry about that instead of hurling false allegations at us.” “Let them tell what is the crime and who is the beneficiary. Let the opposition give some documents on it. We will get it investigated. We have nothing to hide,” he told reporters.
The PM backing Bommai came after an anonymous letter addressed to the PM, alleging the involvement of several political leaders and officials in the scam, surfaced and the Congress was quick to announce that the state would soon see a third chief minister.
Home Minister Araga Jnanendra hit back and asked Congress leaders to provide information and evidence to investigating authorities instead of indulging in “hit-and-run allegations”.
Everyone seems to be ‘trading’ in speculations on the bitcoin scam. Former CM HD Kumaraswamy Friday alleged that the accused in the scam hacked into Jan Dhan accounts and transferred Rs 2 from each account, amounting to about Rs 6,000 crore, taking the fire to the PM’s doorsteps. But as a post script he added that he had no proof but only doubts to bank upon.
The Congress and the BJP too traded charges at each other. Congress leaders have alleged that "influential politicians" were involved in the scam after officials seized bitcoins worth Rs 9 crore from a notorious city-based hacker, Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki (26), who is now out on bail. Sriki is said to have hacked into poker gaming websites and extorted money. CCB sleuths have filed an 800-page chargesheet against Sriki and others, explaining his hacking misadventures, but there are no names of politicians in the chargesheet. He is also accused of sourcing drugs through the dark net, and paying for it through cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, is not recognised as legal tender in many countries, including India.
Meanwhile, Sriki, the man in the centre of the alleged bitcoin scam, termed the bitcoin scandal ‘nuisance’ and ‘bogus’. It is nothing but a media hype he said after walking out of jail on a drug consumption case.
Asked why people like former CM Siddaramaiah are linking him to the scam, Sriki cryptically said: “Big people take big names.”
Currently he is being investigated by three different agencies, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Cyber Crimes wing of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Central Crime Branch (CCB) of Bengaluru police.
The bitcoin scam is over a year old that the Bengaluru Cyber Crime Police stumbled on during investigations in a drugs case. While Bommai handed over different aspects of the case to specific investigative agencies besides their own, the CBI, too, has been approached but they are yet to take it up.
It was Opposition leader Siddaramiah who resurrected the bitcoin ‘scam’ early this week alleging the BJP government of a “coverup”. Ever since that bitcoin scam has been a politically directionless fire raging in Karnataka.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)