In a landmark case that could see the first ever seizure of bitcoin during a criminal investigation in India, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) will look to seize about 400-500 bitcoins (approx. ₹ 21,883,567 INR or $ 327,170 USD) from the accounts of alleged drug traffickers in the country.
The seizure comes as a part of a wider crackdown on drug trafficking conducted over darknet marketplaces wherein a joint-effort by law enforcement agencies has, thus far, begun investigations on three drug syndicates in the country, reports Indian e-publication LiveMint.
In one particular case from Western India, authorities are looking to seize the cryptocurrency, under an asset seizure drive.
Before seizing the bitcoins belonging to the alleged syndicate, the NCB will first have to figure out the legal proceedings of claiming an unregulated cryptocurrency. The NCB is looking to pin the discovered bitcoins under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) among other laws to facilitate the seizure.
An NCB source familiar to the investigation made a direct reference to the bitcoins, underlining the uncharted waters of seizing a decentralized, unregulated cryptocurrency.
The source stated:
While criminal probe agencies have seized a variety of assets like cash and immovable assets in their respective investigations all these years, bitcoins have never been frozen as part of the tainted assets seizure. Bitcoin is equivalent to about Rs. 1 Crore in Indian currency. The NCB is moving in that direction.
No additional details have been revealed and it remains to be seen what the NCB does with the bitcoins, if the seizure is successful. A bitcoin auction is certainly possible, akin to several auctions conducted by the U.S. Marshalls Service after seizing a total of over 144,000 bitcoins from the Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht in 2013.
If a bitcoin auction were to be held, it would also be the first of its kind in a country that sees the cryptocurrency increasingly gaining adoption from everyday Indians.
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Last modified: June 10, 2020 5:00 PM UTC