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Recently, a scam in India was reported to the local Madhya Pradesh Police in which four people are accused of setting up a fake cryptocurrency exchange and manipulating the prices to lure in investors from no less than 22 countries.
According to the Special Task Force (STF) of Madhya Pradesh Police, the fraudsters have fooled 1,500 innocent crypto investors from 22 countries and stolen at least Rs. 100 crores (about $14 million) from them. The fraudsters have reportedly created a fake cryptocurrency and a crypto exchange in which to trade it, and hired shady agents in different countries to dupe the investors.
Harpreet Singh Sahni, one of the lead fraudsters and founders of the fake cryptocurrency exchange, has been arrested from a hotel in New Delhi on Friday where he was staying before he had planned a departure to Dubai. “Till now, four members of the gang have been arrested,” said Purshottam Sharma, special director general of the STF after interrogating Sahni.
According to police investigating the matter, Harpreet Singh Sahni and other members of the gang formed a sham cryptocurrency company in 2018, floated fake cryptocurrency exchange and hired dubious figures in 22 countries to dupe investors who were willing to buy cryptocurrency.
“They appointed a Malaysian named as Mel Davidson as head of the company and used to pay him $3,000 as salary per month,” said STF additional director general of police Ashok Awasthi. A number of promotional and giveaway events were also held in different countries to attract interested investors. According to Awasthi, the fake crypto trading platform was developed by Bangalore-based IT company which provided greater monetary advantages compared to other trading platforms.
“When the market was going down in 2018 and early 2019, the fake exchange was showing high growth to fool people and that’s why many people got trapped,” Sharma added.
As per the data collected by the police from company’s servers in Jaipur, the crypto scam had 1,500 victims from 22 different countries including USA, Australia, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Singapore, Russia, Switzerland, Poland, Malaysia, etc. “The fraud detected so far is of at least Rs 100 crore,” Sharma said.
The special task force first came to know the cryptocurrency fraud on June 25th when they arrested several people from Jabalpur – Brijesh Raikwar and Seema Raikwar and another person identified as Rupesh Rai – who were so-called agents of the company hired by Sahni.
The first case was registered by Rajeev Sharma in November 2018 who lives in Australia. He told MP police that some fraudsters in the state of Madhya Pradesh fooled him with a fake crypto business. After Rajeev Sharma, about 25 other investors in Madhya Pradesh filed complaints with the police which led the STF to investigate the matter, and ultimately make the arrests.
Similar Crypto Frauds All Over India
India has been witnessing several cryptocurrency scams for a while now. Previously, cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, etc. have seen such crypto scams where innocent investors were duped by promising them exclusive returns on their initial investments.
It seems that there were at least two other strikingly similar cases in India: just a month ago a different group of four people were arrested in Surat for running a very similar cryptocurrency scam to this current one; and in March, a different group of four people were arrested in New Delhi for promoting a fake cryptocurrency.