IN A first-of-its-kind case in the state, the Patiala police busted a gang who allegedly kidnapped a trader from Banur and wanted bitcoins – a virtual currency in which digital transaction is needed to transfer the money – as ransom to release the victim. The case is under investigation. All the accused are in police custody. IG (Patiala range) A S Rai said this was a “unique case”. He added that there was a need to spread awareness about bitcoins and how criminals were using this ‘virtual currency’ as a tool as all transactions of bitcoins are untraceable.
Ashu Jain, a Banur-based trader, was kidnapped by six persons on May 30. The kidnappers demanded 20 bitcoins from Jain’s family for his release, the police said. “At the time the kidnappers made this demand, the rate of one bitcoin was Rs 2.05 lakh,” a police officer said.
The kidnappers released Jain after six days. It is unclear if his family members paid the ransom. The police are tight-lipped on the matter. The police’s search for the kidnappers began after Jain’s release. On June 22, the police arrested six persons: identified as Deepak Sharma, a resident of Amritsar, Mandeep Singh, Balraj Singh alias Bobby, Sukhdev Singh alias Laddu, all residents of Tarn Taran district Malkiat Singh of Jandiala Guru and Amrit Singh.
A police officer said the mastermind was Deepak, who was well-educated, while the others were school dropouts. This inspired Deepak’s plan.
“Deepak is a B.Sc (IT) graduate and is also an MBA. He has worked in banks and also invested in the stock markets. Around eight months ago, Deepak bought bit coins as an investment but the company that sold these to him allegedly duped him. He also suffered losses in the share market and had a debt of nearly Rs 60 lakh. When he lodged a complaint with the police, he was told that bit coins are untraceable, “ the officer added.
“The gang tried to kidnap people from other places too. They made their first attempt in Nawashahr but could not succeed. Deepak then decided to focus on Mohali or nearby areas. Posing as an ‘investment consultant,’ he contacted some property dealers in Zirakpur from where he got the number of Jain. They met and told Jain they want to buy property. They then kidnapped him,” an officer said.