Investigation: Govt Releases 50l For Sit’s Bitcoin Case Probe; Team To Look For Expert Support | Bengaluru News

Bengaluru: The government has released Rs 50 lakh under the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements (KTPP) Act to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Criminal Investigation Department formed to reinvestigate the Bitcoin case. This comes over two years after Bengaluru police clarified to a local court that they had not recovered 31 Bitcoins from hacker Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki and that he had misled the interrogators by showing them a live wallet of a Bitcoin exchange.
Police said the fund would be of great help in getting the support from experts that’s required to probe the scandal that is not only a hitech crime but has international dimensions.
Sriki was arrested by police in November 2020 on alleged charges of purchasing drugs from darknet using Bitcoins. Prior to his arrest, cops had arrested his associates and recovered 500 grams of marijuana from them. No cash was recovered either from Sriki or his associates.
In January 2021, Sandeep Patil, then joint commissioner of police, Central Crime Branch, had announced that no Bitcoins had been transferred from Sriki’s account, nor were any Bitcoins lost.
“After Sriki told us that his wallet had 31 Bitcoins, we decided to open an account for further investigation. We had taken permission from the government in January. During the investigation, cyber experts had found that the Bitcoin account, claimed to be opened by Sriki, was a live wallet of an exchange and he did not have a private key to it. The wallet was untouched and no Bitcoins were transferred to the police wallet,” Sandeep Patil claimed. A report to this effect was also attached in the chargesheet against Sriki, running into 800 pages, and filed by then investigating officer Chandradhar.
After the Congress government formed the SIT in July, an official filed an FIR last month against the then CCB officials and others in the case, claiming that electronic gadgets of Sriki were tampered with by addition of more files during the investigation.
Need for knowledge
Now, with the government sanctioning Rs 50 lakh, SIT officials are ready to hire experts in cyber-forensic field and Bitcoins. “The probe demands deep knowledge of cybercrime as well as knowledge on Bitcoins. In this case, finding the roots of Bitcoins — from where they came and to where they went — are the most important factors. Once we begin the investigation, there will be unseen challenges for sure. Also, while tracking Bitcoin, we need to work with other countries. All these hurdles can be handled effectively if we are well equipped with experts,” a senior officer said.
Asked if any deadline is fixed to complete the probe, he said: “We’ll prefer completing it in reasonable time.”