The trial of Indian cryptocurrency scamster Amit Bhardwaj and Vivek Bhardwaj in Pune District Sessions Court is developing as an interesting story. In yesterday’s hearing the lawyers of accused Bhardwaj brothers argued before the court that cases filed against their clients are not relevant, a claim which has the potential to shake the grounds of whole case.
Amit and Vivek Bhardwaj were wanted for running India’s biggest cryptocurrency ponzi scheme since the beginning of this year. The scheme reportedly duped its investors to the tune of Rs. 2,000 crores, and when it was exposed, the Bhardwaj brothers went underground. After a long chase from India to Dubai to Bangkok, they were finally nabbed by Bangkok police on 4th of April. The Bangkok Police then brought them to Delhi Airport, where a Special Investigation Team arrested them immediately. Cases were filed against them in Nigdi Police Station of Pune, and they were produced before Shivajinagar District Court of Pune a day later.
Now in District Court Nigdi cops demanded the police custody of Bhardwaj brothers, giving 16 points to the court. However, Advocates Gaurav Jachak and Ronak Vankalas – the lawyers representing accused brothers – refuted all 16 points stating that acts cited by the police in this case are not applicable. The 3 acts, namely Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (MPID) Act, Chit Fund Act and Protection of Depositors Act are all applicable to Indian currencies only, while Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, Mr. Jachak argued. He said:
“Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. The preamble of three relevant acts state they are applicable only to Indian currency. The government has not given any value to cryptocurrency. Recently, the finance ministry also stated Bitcoin is not valid in India. The case is clearly under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 420 (cheating) and 406 (criminal breach of trust).”
Now as far as charges of cheating (section 420) and criminal breach of trust (section 406) are concerned, Mr. Jachak had his defense ready on the tongue:
“My client never assured output in any contract. He took Bitcoin and gave returns. When these were not as per the desires of some clients, cheating cases were filed. Every complaint was filed with a two-year delay— people who invested in 2015 and 2016 filed complaints in 2018. All were after demonetisation. Despite a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) warning about investigating what people have invested in, police have not done so. People are just trying to extract money from my client by using the police.”
On the other hand, the lawyer of Vivek Bhardwaj also had some solid arguments ready for his client. When prosecutors demanded 14 days of police custody for brothers, Advocate Vankalas asked how can police ask for Vivek’s custody when it has not even been able to explain his role in the case. According to a report in Pune Mirror, Vankalas said:
“Vivek’s name is not mentioned in the remand report, and cops have not explained his role in the case. Why then are they demanding police custody for him?”
After listening to arguments from both sides the judge remanded both Bhardwaj brothers in police custody for next 7 (if not 14) days. The brothers will now remain in police custody till April 27.