Bengaluru police on Thursday asked a local court for permission to send hacker Srikrishna Ramesh aka Sriki laptops for forensic examination.
Although the Prime Minister of Karnataka had denied any scandal in the cryptocurrency hacking case with Srikrishna, police sent four of Ramesh’s laptops to the Forensic Sciences Lab (FSL) in Bengaluru. According to police, after Srikrishna’s arrest on Monday, these laptops were confiscated from a five-star hotel for drug use.
The development comes when Congress accused the BJP government of covering up the case and the day Prime Minister Basavaraj Bommai met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A day after Congress made allegations of links between hacker Srikrishna Ramesh and BJP leaders in the alleged Bitcoin scandal, senior Bengaluru Police officers refuted the allegations. Presenting their versions of the investigation, two senior police officers told the Bengaluru Police Department that several of the hacker’s allegations could not be verified during the investigation, which is highlighted by the opposition.
The hacker in question, Srikrishna, was arrested by Central Crime Branch (CCB) police in a drug trafficking case on November 18, 2020. He had bought drugs from international dealers with bitcoins on the dark web. During interrogation, CCB found that the software engineer was also implicated in a number of online crimes. He confessed to hacking and stealing three Bitcoin exchanges, 14 corporate websites, including 10 poker websites, and a government portal.
The opposition had asked several questions about the investigation, notably the police failing to disclose information about Srikrishna’s involvement in past hacking incidents, including the hacking of the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange in 2016. During his interrogation, Srikrishna admitted to being part of a group of hackers who broke into a Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange on August 2, 2016. Together, these hackers stole 120,000 bitcoins worth around $ 72 million.
This case has caught the attention of international law enforcement agencies and India has also been briefed on the development, police officials said. The opposition has alleged that the Karnataka government withheld this information from the central authorities. “The hacker had hacked into three Bitcoin exchanges, 14 websites, including 10 poker websites, and exploited malware. The sum is speculated to be round ₹2,283 crore, but it will not be disclosed. Why was this not communicated to the relevant authorities? ”Asked Priyank Kharge, Congressman and former Minister for Information Technology.
He added that although police claimed they had confiscated bitcoins from the hacker, they were not presented to the court. “My questions are simple. Where are the bitcoins of the hacker Sriki confiscated? Why was the mention of 31 bitcoins confiscated from ₹9 crore left over from the fee schedule? Why was a hacker bailed out by the police after claiming to hack government websites? ”Asked Kharge.
In response to the allegation, a senior Bengaluru police officer who refused to be named said that although Srikrishna had told police about his involvement, it could not be confirmed. “Yes, in his voluntary declaration (a copy of which is available from HT), Sriki has alleged many things, including involvement in Bitfinex hacking. In his statement he talks about Runscape.com, Bitcointalk.org etc. Bitfinex was one of those companies he mentioned. We were unable to verify this information and so it was not disclosed. We tried to get more evidence, ”the officer said.
He added that the police could only find evidence of his involvement in hacking some poker companies and the government portal.
In response to allegations about the “missing bitcoins”, the officer admitted that police were seizing the ₹Bitcoins worth 9 crore from Srikrishna. “In the presence of two experts, he carried out an evidence collection in which Srikrishna showed a Bitcoin account with 31 Bitcoins. With the help of experts, he had changed the access data of the account and considered it confiscated. However, a few days later we discovered that the confiscated account was not owned by Sriki. We also submitted all of this information to the court. I don’t understand why there is controversy about it, ”said the officer.