With every passing day the importance of Bitcoin in India is increasing. Yesterday this importance increased further as besides being a means of exchange and a store of value Bitcoin also became a weapon for political blame game. The drama started sometime around evening when Indian National Congress organized a press conference at party headquarters. The PC was chaired by party spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil, and during the conference Mr. Gohil alleged Gujarat BJP of being complicit in a multi-thousand crore Bitcoin scam during demonetization.
Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil told reporters at the conference that around the time of demonetization a massive multi-layer extortion and hawala scam was carried out by some top BJP leaders to the tune of at least 5,000 crore rupees. This figure, according to him, has been estimated by Gujarat CID itself, but some local newspapers and international bloggers estimate the figures to be as high as 88,000 crore rupees. He said:
A new mega bitcoin scam has been unraveled in Gujarat. The finger of suspicion of this massive scam of illegal cryptocurrency directly points to several top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and a mastermind — an absconding BJP leader and former MLA Nalin Kotadiya.
Congress also explained the story of a victim in this scam who goes by the name of Shailesh Bhatt. Mr. Bhatt is a Surat-based real estate developer who had exchanged old currency notes with Bitcoin at the time of demonetization. But then someone (who might’ve known him well) tipped about his Bitcoins to a BJP leader (possibly Nalin Kotadiya) in return of a 1% reward, and his world was turned upside down overnight. A CBI Inspector called him and extorted 5 crore rupees from him for not launching an inquiry into his Bitcoin holdings. Then a few days later that Bhatt is arrested again from a petrol pump in Gandhi Nagar, this time by Amreli Police. The police officials too extort 200 Bitcoins (worth 10 crore rupees) and 32 crore cash from him. A humiliated and frustrated Shailesh Bhatt then goes to Gujarat State Home Minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja, tells his story and promises to fund BJP. Gujarat CID Crime then launches an investigation into the scam. Several police officers, including SP of Amreli Police, PI Amreli Police and 10 constables are arrested. But when the mastermind of scam is found to be BJP MLA Nalin Kotadiya, the investigation suddenly comes to a halt and Kotadiya becomes an absconder.
Congress also alleged that this Nalin Kotadia, the absconding Ex-BJP MLA who’s the mastermind of scam, has also released a video stating that if he is arrested he will release ‘damning evidence’ about a number of top BJP leaders in state. Plus, the Gujarat CID is now trying to pressurize the witnesses for political reasons and has controversially filed a second complaint against the witnesses themselves, naming Mr. Bhatt as an accused.
Instead of him (Mr Bhatt) being the complainant in the first case, the CID at the behest of MoS Home made the police the complainant.
Moving further, Mr. Gohil questioned the silence of CBI, ED and I-T department in this case and demanded an SC mointored judicial probe into the matter. He said:
The government sent ED and Income Tax officials to hound Gujarat Congress MLAs in Karnataka, but does not bother to investigate this scam in which an absconding mastermind BJP leader has made serious allegations of how top BJP leaders are linked with this entire sage of illicit money transactions. Who are the top BJP leaders against whom Kotadiya has damning evidence? We demand an impartial Supreme Court-monitored judicial investigation.
Here’s the full video of the official press briefing:
BJP rebuts the charge
BJP was also swift to respond to these charges. Gujarat BJP spokesperson Anil Baluni said:
The dirty tricks department of the Congress is at work to spread confusion and lies. It is blaming the police which has uncovered the case. I wonder if the Congress is trying to help somebody in this case as part of a conspiracy.
As you can see, the blame and response are in typical political fashion. Congress has blamed BJP without providing any sufficient evidence to backup its claims (a single FIR copy doesn’t necessarily mean that this was a state-wide large scale scam), and BJP has also rebutted the charges in same manner. Probably only an inquiry can reveal the veracity and validity of these claims.