Updated: December 17, 2021 8:03:15 am
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Karnataka police has filed a charge sheet against 16 people, including 26-year-old international hacker Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki, for involvement in the 2019 hacking of the state government’s e-procurement portal to steal Rs 11.5 crore.
The CID filed the charge sheet on Wednesday even as several crimes allegedly involving Srikrishna – including hacking of international bitcoin exchanges and disappearance of stolen bitcoins – is set to be raised by the opposition Congress in the legislature during the ongoing winter session.
The CID has filed charges of theft, receiving of stolen property, disposal of stolen property, destruction of evidence and other criminal acts against Srikrishna, his associates Sunish Hegde, a civil contractor, Hemanth Mudappa, a racer, and 13 others.
Srikrishna is alleged to have hacked into the e-procurement cell at the Centre for E-governance in 2019 at the instance of his associates in Bengaluru who set up an elaborate money laundering scheme to bring the stolen funds back to them.
In August 2019, officials at the e-procurement cell filed complaints with the cyber crime unit of the CID, saying Rs 11.5 crore of earnest money deposits have been stolen from the e-procurement cell and they were able to stop the theft of Rs 7.37 crore more.
The hacking was discovered on July 30, 2019 by a financial consultant at the e-procurement cell while checking the approved list of refunds of earnest money deposits (EMD) made against bids for tenders. The consultant found that an unauthorised instruction was issued for the unique registration number used by the Karnataka government for online banking to transfer Rs 7.37 crore as EMD payment despite the government not approving the refund. The transfer of the Rs 7.37 crore funds was stopped by the e-procurement cell before it could be executed.
However, a further analysis of the approved list of EMD fund transfers revealed that on July 1, 2019, unauthorised instructions were issued for transfer of Rs 1.05 crore to the account of a firm, Nimmi Enterprises, in UP’s Bulandshahr. A police complaint was lodged on August 7, 2019 by the financial consultant, S K Shailaja.
A few days later, it was discovered that another similar unauthorised EMD refund instruction of Rs 10.50 crore had taken place on July 9, 2019 in which the money was fraudulently transferred to an ICICI Bank account of Nagpur-based NGO Udaya Grama Vikas Samstha. The matter was reported to police on August 25, 2019.
Among those named in the CID charge sheet is Rathnakar Walke, secretary of the NGO, his wife who was the NGO treasurer, and one of his associates, Randhir Ashar, who allegedly asked the NGO official to create the bank accounts where Rs 10.5 crore stolen funds was transferred.
Others named in the charge sheet are officials from the private firm in Bulandshahr, who received Rs 1.05 crore, hawala operators who facilitated the transfer of the stolen funds and some associates of the hacking gang. A Delhi-based businessman, Sushil Chandra, into whose account Rs 40 lakh of the stolen money was found to have been transferred, has also been named in the charge sheet.
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