PTI Photo by R Senthil Kumar
PTI Photo by R Senthil Kumar

Mumbai: Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty’s husband Raj Kundra was summoned by Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials on Tuesday in connection with a Rs 2000 crore bitcoin scam in which several people, including mastermind Amit Bhardwaj and his brother Vivek, were arrested from Delhi by the Pune police in April this year.

On Tuesday, Kundra reached the ED office around 11 am and was grilled for nearly 12 hours by officials in Mumbai. Confirming the development, ED Director Karnail Singh said, “He (Kundra) was questioned in Mumbai in connection with the bitcoin scam.” One of the members of Kundra’s Public Relations team said, “This is to clarify that Raj Kundra has no involvement or connection to the Bitcoin scam whatsoever. He has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate merely as a witness. Raj is cooperating with the law enforcement agency as Amit Bhardwaj is an acquaintance and protocol is being followed.”

After the day-long grilling in the ED office, Kundra said, “Amit Bhardwaj was to buy a team in poker league and had entered into a contract with us; however, due to non-payment, the contract was terminated. I have come as a witness.” Kundra owns Match Poker league. Sources told the Free Press Journal that they suspect that Kundra may be among the people who had promoted Bhardwaj’s companies – GainBitcoin, GBMiners, MCAP and GB21. Nearly 8000 investors were duped of Rs 2000 after transactions on these portals.

The accused had adopted a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) model to lure middle-class victims to invest in bitcoins for ‘guaranteed return of 10 per cent every month’. “Besides Kundra, it is suspected many Bollywood actors promoted his (Bhardwaj’s) companies,” said a source, who added that the other Bollywood bigwigs would also be grilled. “We are probing if these promoters were beneficiaries in the scam,” another officer said. The 35-year-old IT professional Bhardwaj expanded his cryptocurrency business in UAE, Russia, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Venezuela. It is also alleged that heavyweights in Pakistan helped Bhardwaj’s business to flourish in Dubai.

Investors were in a state of shock after they noticed an overnight change in terms and conditions online in Bhardwaj companies. Investors tried to contact Bhardwaj, but he was not reachable. FIRs have been registered at Cyber Cells in Pune and Nanded. After remaining in hibernation for nearly eight months, Bhardwaj was located in Bangkok by Thai security agencies who alerted Indian officials. He was detained at the airport and brought to Delhi. Based on these FIRs, the ED registered its first Enforcement Case Investigation Report (ECIR) in India against Gainbitcoin and a few others under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in Mumbai.

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