There seems no end to cases relating to defrauding investors using virtual currencies. Mumbai police’s crime branch department in Thane has busted a Rs 500 crore cryptocurrency scam on Monday, as per the initial report. The scam was operated for over two-year under the identity of a real-estate firm.
The scam was forged by The Flintstone Group, an alleged real estate firm, that promised investors with not only flats and high returns on investmetn but also African and Caribbean citizenships. The Flintstone Group’s cryptocurrency was termed as MoneyTradeCoin (MTC), which was used as a bait for investors to put in money with the lure of high returns and citizenships. The company also went into saying to investors that their cryptocurrency would be considered as legal tender in few years of time in all the African nations.
Thane Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh said at a press conference: “The accused allegedly posed as representatives of the Union Finance Ministry and had also prepared fake identity cards to cheat people. Around 25,000 people fell prey to the accused and invested money in the company”
The scam came to light on basis of a complaint filed by a New-Delhi based businessman, who along with his five other colleagues had invested Rs 1.7 crore into their scheme (MTC) but had not received any feedback even after promised dates and frequently missed payout dates.
During the raid at The Flintstone Group’s office, the police found another office in Vikhroli from where the core operation of the scam was run and also came to light that some police personnel were also involved in the scam on the commission basis and their roles are also being probed. The police seized 53 laptops, rubber stamps and fabricated documents during the raids.
The mastermind Amit Lakhanpal, MD of Flintstone Group is absconding and police say that he has fled the country a few days ago fearing police action. Lakhanpal is considered to be influential and is seen with leading politicians and also invested in Bollywood films, the angle which police is also investing. The police have arrested Taha Kazi, who was allegedly providing technical support to the company.
According to Flintstone’s office: “MoneyTrade Coin is an intellectual property jointly owned by Dubai based firm Bitcoin Global FZE, UAE and Money Trade Coin Ltd, UK. Mr Amit M. Lakhanpal is the Director of Money Trade Coin Ltd (and is one of the key members of Bitcoin Global FZE and MD of Flintstone Group, India).”
The group had employed 70 employees in its two offices and police is also questioning their involvement in the matter.
According to a police officer: “Employees here were using MTC. Lakhanpal and his associates promised investors a 20-times return on investment in a mere six months. But once the deadline passed, the company made several excused to not release the money.”
The officer added, “A few days ago, some investors even went to Dubai to meet Lakhanpal, but they were allegedly threatened and were told that they should not ask for their money. We also found that Lakhanpal had never constructed any building, even though he claimed to run a real estate company.”
Police have registered cases under several sections of IPC, Maharashtra Protection of Investors and Depositors (MPID) Act, and the Chit Fund Act
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