Karntaka: Political slugfest over Bitcoin case escalates
The Congress on Wednesday alleged that the BJP was protecting the hacker involved in the cryptocurrency case.
Talking to the media, Congress legislator and former information technology minister Priyank Kharge alleged that the BJP government had taken thousands of crores kickbacks in the Bitcoin scandal involving hacker Srikrishna alias Sriki.
“This government is very systematically trying to cover up the bitcoin scam. All the BJP senior leadership is involved, their children are involved as well as senior officials. This is a scandal of thousands of crores. They have got kickbacks from drugs, transfers, investments, and even bribes through this method,” Priyank Kharge told reporters.
He went on to add that hacker Srikrishna was important for the BJP since he was key to the scandal. “Sriki is BJP’s prized possession. Like the Hindi saying that raja ki jaan thothe mein hai, he (Sriki) is their thotha (The King’s heart is in the parrot, Sriki is their parrot),” said Kharge.
Srikrishna was arrested by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) police on November 18, 2020, in a drug peddling case. He had bought drugs from international dealers using bitcoins on the dark web. In the interrogation that followed, CCB found that the software engineer was also involved in a series of online crimes.
He hacked into websites to steal their data and locked the owners out of it. He would then demand payment in bitcoins to unlock the websites. He also confessed to creating ‘mirror’ sites, or fake payment portals that mimicked real ones, to steal credit or debit card information to steal money. He confessed to stealing ₹11.5 crore from the e-procurement cell of the Karnataka e-governance centre, apart from hacking into some Bitcoin exchanges.
Kharge asked the government to make the letter written by chief minister Basavaraj Bommai to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the issue public. “Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, there will be a digital footprint. It is difficult to trace but not impossible,” he added.
Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah too joined the attack. On Wednesday the veteran Congress leader tweeted: “Bitcoin, whoever is involved, whether it is Congress, BJP or JD(S), we have to book them. Let them share their names. I never say anything without evidence,” Siddaramaiah said.
“We are not trying to blackmail anyone. I am getting suspicious of the way Basavaraj Bommai is talking. He is talking like he is involved. I never alleged that Basavaraj Bommai is involved,” he added.
Responding to the allegation, chief minister Bommai said that the Congress leaders were commenting without any knowledge of the case. “Ask poor Priyank Kharge to get full information first and then talk. There are names of Congress leaders and he should worry about that,” Bommai said on Wednesday.
Bommai said that Sriki was first arrested in 2018 when Congress was in power. “Please remember who was in power at the time (Congress). The case was registered in Cubbon park station and five to six arrests were made. But Sriki was given an opportunity for anticipatory bail. Even after that, he could have been probed. He was involved in a brawl recently and he could have been brought in for questioning…. in 2020, we (the BJP government) started a war on drugs and he (Sriki) was caught that trying to buy drugs from the dark web in other countries and selling it here,” he added.
Meanwhile, a court in Bengaluru on Wednesday granted conditional bail to alleged hacker Sriki alias Srikrishna in a case related to a hotel brawl. Srikrishna who was granted bail in the hacking cases earlier this year was arrested again by Bengaluru police on Sunday after he got into an argument with the staff of a five star hotel in Bengaluru. Later police found that the hacker was under the influence of drugs and he was taken into custody. He was fined ₹4,500 for consuming drugs and was released on conditional bail with ₹25,000 as surety.
Srikrishna refused to comment on the case. “I have nothing to say, man. Please stop. There is nothing to say about this. This is just nuisance and bogus,” he told reporters in Bengaluru.