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The case of the Karnataka cryptocurrency scam and the man behind it

Cryptocurrencies have been the subject of numerous frauds over the years, which is one of the reasons they are not recognised as legal tender in many countries, including India. Another scandal recently startled the Karnataka government. The state’s opposition has made a big deal out of a computer hacker’s suspected cryptocurrency transactions with “powerful politicians.”

What exactly was the ruse?

On November 4, 2020, the hacker Srikrishna Ramesh was caught in Bengaluru in a drugs case. Ramesh is accused of sending money to Robin Khandelwal, who managed a Bitcoin trading firm, in order to buy drugs on the dark web.

A variety of offences were discovered as a result of the arrest. Ramesh was also found to be involved in a number of other offences, including the hacking of an e-procurement cell, according to Bengaluru Police. In addition, the alleged hacker was found with 31 Bitcoins worth over Rs 9 crore.

According to reports, the Enforcement Directorate is looking into Ramesh’s unlawful wealth and the theft of Rs 11.5 crore from the Karnataka e-governance e-procurement unit.

Ramesh, 25, was believed to have had a long-standing interest in computers and programming languages, and had also hacked his school’s website. He went by the identities Rose and Big Boss as a black hat hacker, someone who breaks into computer networks with hostile intent.

Ramesh, a resident of Bengaluru’s Jayanagar neighbourhood, attended VV Puram College, where he began drinking and using drugs. That led to more hacking and stealing of money, which he used to buy Bitcoins on the dark web to buy drugs. He moved to Amsterdam to study Computer Science in 2014.

He is reported to have hacked into Indian poker websites as well as RuneScape, a game website. In 2018, he was charged with attacking a guy in UB City alongside Mohammed Nalapad, son of MLA NA Haris. According to sources, Ramesh’s hacking services were the source of dispute in the brawl.

BTC2pm.me, a website where people can exchange Bitcoins for money; Havelock Investment, a stock-trading platform for Bitcoin users; Bangladesh-based exchange Paytiz; MPEX, an illicit cryptocurrency-trading platform; and a Ukrainian platform are among the sites Ramesh is accused of hacking.

The Criminal Investigation Department is looking into two hacking cases linked to Ramesh and his associates: a Rs 11.5-crore heist from the state’s e-governance cell’s e-procurement unit in 2019 and an attempted ransomware attack on the website of Adani Group-owned Udupi Power Corporation Ltd in 2020.

In three of the seven incidents, police have filed chargesheets, while four others are still under investigation. In all cases, Ramesh is free on bail.

The opposition Congress party has stated that the police have been lenient toward Ramesh and his cronies in recent weeks. The charges have been denied by the state government.

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