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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Aides talk of deals, tell police ‘hacker’ had big Bitcoin stock

Between 2017 and 2020, Rs 5 crore of funds were reportedly provided by the Bitcoin trader, Rajeev Khandelwal, to Srikrishna — including for chartering a private flight and yacht, and for five-star hotel stays.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru |
Updated: November 17, 2021 8:10:43 am
Srikrishna alias Sriki

AS IT PROBES the financial dealings of alleged hacker Srikrishna alias Sriki in a cryptocurrency scandal, the Enforcement Directorate is closely looking at a Kolkata-based Bitcoin trading services provider, who reportedly doubled up as the 26-year-old’s personal accountant.

Between 2017 and 2020, Rs 5 crore of funds were reportedly provided by the Bitcoin trader, Rajeev Khandelwal, to Srikrishna — including for chartering a private flight and yacht, and for five-star hotel stays. Khandelwal was arrested with Srikrishna in November 2020 over an alleged drug deal using Bitcoins.

Khandelwal’s voluntary statement to police is part of a chargesheet filed against Srikrishna for allegedly hacking into three Bitcoin exchanges and 10 poker sites.

While the six cases against Srikrishna do not talk of the exact cryptocurrency he holds, Khandelwal and another associate have reportedly told police he possessed a large number in 2018.

Khandelwal’s statement says he sold 130 Bitcoins given to him by Srikrishna between 2017-20, and Rs 3.48 crore from the sale were transferred to persons as instructed by him, while Rs 1.5 crore was given in cash (allegedly through hawala) to Srikrishna.

One of the deals the ED is looking at is the purchase of a Porsche Macan car for Rs 57 lakh by reportedly a politically linked associate of Srikrishna in January 2018 from a showroom in Bengaluru, and the return of the vehicle within a month. The accountant reportedly paid Rs 45 lakh for the car, and Rs 12 lakh was reversed into the firm operated by him. Another alleged suspicious payment was of Rs 26 lakh.

The ED is said to be also looking at Rs 11.8 lakh payment in 2018 for a chartered flight reportedly used by Srikrishna and his associates to fly from Chandigarh to Mumbai, and Rs 10 lakh for a yacht.

Khandelwal’s statement says he came in touch with Srikrishna in April 2017 on a Bitcoin trading platform. “Srikrishna told me he was in possession of 900 Bitcoins. He asked me if I could sell his Bitcoins. I used to take the Bitcoins given by Srikrishna and would send funds from my bank account… I would sell the Bitcoins at a higher price,” reads the statement.

Khandelwal has reportedly given details regarding a 2017 deal, when Srikrishna allegedly told him to sell Ethereum tokens. “We got 30 Bitcoins in exchange, out of which 20 were transferred to Srikrishna’s wallet,” reads the statement.

According to police sources, Srikrishna would hack into exchanges while staying at five-star hotels, and using their Internet, to prevent being tracked. In May-July 2019, he reportedly ran up a bill of Rs 40 lakh at a Bengaluru hotel, though he lived with his family in the city.

Another associate has reportedly police that he paid Rs 2 crore in all in 2018-20 for Srikrishna’s hotel stays, in the hope of cryptocurrency profits. “Srikrishna told me he had a sizable number of Bitcoins from hacking exchanges,” Khandelwal’s statement says. “A lot of people were dancing around him (Srikrishna) in the hope of getting some of the Bitcoins he claimed to have,” police sources said.

One of these people was reportedly a 35-year-old son of a doctor, who has been named in many of the cases involving Srikrishna. He has told police that Srikrishna deposited Rs 3 crore from the sale of Bitcoins in 2019 in an account provided by him.

Police records claim Srikrishna might also have been kept in captivity by some of his associates in 2020, prior to his arrest, in the hope of laying their hands on Bitcoins.

The allegations involving Srikrishna have snowballed into a political controversy in Karnataka. Srikrishna claims to have stolen over 5,000 Bitcoins, and the Opposition is alleging that the “missing” chunk of this cryptocurrency was siphoned off by politicians and officials.

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