‘Mastermind’ in Rs 2,000-crore Bitcoin scam receives extortion call; FIR filed

Amit Bhardwaj, the man who started his own bitcoin mining operations and allegedly cheated more than 8,000 people to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore from across the country, has lodged a complaint with the Delhi Police special cell, alleging that he received an extortion call and was asked to pay protection money.

An FIR under IPC Sections, 386 (extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt) and 506 (threatening) has been registered and police have found that Amit Bhardwaj received a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) call.

Bhardwaj alleged in his FIR, “I received a call and the caller started abusing me. He threatened me of dire consequences if I cut the line. He did not reveal his identity but asked me to give protection money to three men and claimed that he was calling me on their behalf. He also abused me and also threatened my family members.”

He also alleged that he had lodged an FIR last year with the special cell but no action has been taken so far. “He claimed that he received a call from a Bihar-based politician last year and he also threatened him to give protection money to the same persons (three men),” a senior police officer said.

In June 2018, Amit was arrested at the IGI Airport in Delhi by Pune police along with his brother Vivek Bhardwaj in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme.

Bhardwaj had set up an elaborate multi-level marketing (MLM) scam by luring investors to give him Bitcoins in return for promised higher returns, police said. Under the scheme, people were asked to invest one Bitcoin for a 10 per cent return. The contract would be valid for 18 months. Bhardwaj also allegedly offered to provide Bitcoin mining hardware to investors. However, he never gave the returns and fled the country, police said.

FIRs were registered against the brothers in Delhi, Chandigarh, Pune and Bangalore. In 2019, the Supreme Court had granted bail to Amit and Vivek on health grounds.

The Delhi Police said that Bhardwaj introduced the first online retail marketplace that accepts bitcoin in the country in 2014. He owns a chain of bitcoin mining operations. Notable among them are Gain bitcoin, which claims to have set up bitcoin mining operations in China; Hong Kong-based GB Miners and the recently launched, MCAP.