Nanded police, probing one of the first three cases in the bitcoin multi level marketing (MLM) scam in which around 8,000 people across the country have reportedly been duped, will be primarily probing how prime suspect Amit Bharadwaj started building his network from Nanded, where he studied engineering in early 2000s.
Bharadwaj (35) is currently in the custody of Pune City police after a special investigation team arrested him in April first week after he landed in Delhi airport from Bangkok. Before that, Pune police had arrested seven persons, who allegedly worked as agents for him. While two separate FIRs have been lodged at the Dattawadi and Nigdi police stations in Pune, one more case was lodged with Nanded police by a doctor.
Till Monday, 32 investors from Nanded had complained that they had been cheated but police suspect the number of such people to be in hundreds. So far, 50 people have approached Pune police. Nanded district Superintendent of Police Chandrakishor Meena told The Indian Express, “We are waiting for the custody of Bharadwaj, currently being quizzed by Pune police. Bharadwaj studied engineering at a college in Nanded. A key aspect of our probe will be, how he built his network in Nanded in the early days.”
Among those who have come forward with complaints are businessmen, doctors and professionals. “The suspects held seminars for people interested in investing in bitcoins. We have arrested one person who acted as an agent. A search is on for the others,” said a police officer.
A member of the management at the Mahatma Gandhi Mission’s College of Engineering in Nanded confirmed Bharadwaj had studied there. “He completed his degree in Computer Science in 2004. As per my information, he worked with some IT companies before he started the company now under probe,” he said.
Delhi police say Bharadwaj introduced the first online retail marketplace accepting bitcoin in the country in 2014. He owns a chain of bitcoin mining operations. Notable among them are GainBitcoin — which claims to have set up bitcoin mining operations in China, GB Miners, located in Hong Kong, and the recently launched MCAP.
The police probe has revealed Bharadwaj and his associates had set up an elaborate MLM system by luring investors to hand him bitcoins in the promise of higher returns. Investors were asked to invest one bitcoin for a 10 per cent return. Bhardwaj also offered another option, where he promised to facilitate bitcoin mining hardware to investors, who may then mine their won bitcoins. However, after initial returns, no money was given back to investors and Bharadwaj fled the country.