₹6,600 crore Ponzi scam: HC grants bail to Delhi-based event manager | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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6,600 crore Ponzi scam: HC grants bail to Delhi-based event manager

Jul 10, 2024 09:16 AM IST

Bombay HC grants bail to Nikhil Mahajan in Bitcoin Ponzi scam case, stating money received for event services not proceeds of crime.

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Tuesday granted bail to Nikhil Mahajan, a Delhi-based event-management firm director who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the 6,600 crore Bitcoin-based Ponzi scam.

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A single-judge bench of Justice Manish Pitale granted Mahajan bail, observing that the money he received from the main accused was for the services he provided — arranging celebrities for promotional events organised by the accused persons in Dubai and Macau. The court said this money cannot be termed as proceeds of the crime.

Mahajan approached the high court after a special court for cases involving the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) rejected his bail plea. He had sought bail claiming innocence, stating that he had only provided event management services to Amit Bharadwaj, founder and CEO of the website gainbitcoin.com, through which the Ponzi scheme was implemented by luring investors in the name of earning high returns from “bitcoin mining.”

Mahajan had argued that he was not named in any of the at least 33 first information reports registered against gainbitcoin.com, its Singapore-based parent company Variabletech Pvt Ltd, Bharadwaj and others, as he merely provided his services to the accused persons for stipulated fees. Mahajan had allegedly organised promotional events featuring celebrities for gainbitcoin.com in Dubai and Macau.

The ED had opposed the bail plea, contending that Mahajan himself had revealed that he was paid in bitcoins for organising the promotional events. Justice Pitale, however, refused to accept the argument. “The responses given by the applicant (Mahajan) to the questions put by the ED do not indicate his involvement in alluring or inducing investors to invest in bitcoins,” said Justice Pitale.

“In the present case, the alleged criminal activity was that of the main accused persons when they allegedly allured and induced investors in investing in bitcoins. The applicant simply provided services at the venues where such events were organised. And it would be far-fetched to claim that payment made for providing such services, when received in the hands of the applicant, was a property obtained directly or indirectly, as a result of criminal activity relating to a scheduled offence,” the judge added.

The court has ordered Mahajan to be released after furnishing a personal bond of 1 lakh and one or two sureties of the same amount. He has been asked to surrender his passport and not leave India without prior permission from the trial court.

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