An Indian bitcoin investor is the alleged mastermind of a kidnapping that was complete with a ransom demand for bitcoins.
In the first-known case of its kind in the northern Indian state of Punjab, a local trader was kidnapped by six individuals on May 30, according to the Indian Express. The alleged mastermind is identified as Deepak, a bank employee and stock market investor. Deepak reportedly purchased bitcoins as an investment last year and has since claimed that the company selling him the cryptocurrency had scammed him. With losses in the stock market, Deepak ran up a debt of nearly 6 million rupees (approx. $925,000), paving the path to crime.
Deepak, currently in custody with the rest of his accomplice, targeted local property sellers in the state as a purported ‘investment consultant. Upon telling the seller that he was interested in buying the property, the ‘buyers’ met the victim and kidnapped him.
The kidnappers then demanded 20 bitcoins as ransom before ultimately releasing the victim after six days. With an investigation currently underway, details are scarce. It is still unknown if the victim’s family paid the ransom.
As bitcoin gains popularity in the second most populous country in the world, there is a rise in bitcoin-related crime in recent months. In late 2016, the city of Lucknow saw its first official police case of fraud involving bitcoin.
As CCN reported in March, a senior official from the Indian crime branch pointed to a number of scammers who are increasingly abusing digital currencies.
The official stated:
Cases of fraud related to bitcoins are becoming more frequent. [Bitcoin’s increasing popularity and acceptance around the world] has attracted many new investors. However, cashing on its rising popularity, some scamsters are also running fraud set-ups.
The lack of regulation of the bitcoin industry and other digital currencies has spurred the government into action in setting up an inter-governmental virtual currency committee earlier in March. The committee, tasked to research and propose a regulatory framework for the future of digital currencies in the country, is expected to submit its findings to India’s finance ministry by the end of July. Despite calls for a blanket ban by some politicians, local reports have already claimed that the government is preparing a regulatory and legislative framework for bitcoin. Such a move would see bitcoin regulated, taxed and, in effect, legalized in India.
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