Just three days after Opposition leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah claimed that there is a life threat to multi-crore bitcoin scam accused Srikrishna Ramesh alias ‘Sriki’, the main accused has reportedly gone missing after coming out of jail on bail. Following the names of officials, politicians, businessmen and others connected in the case, the police had agreed to give security to Sriki. The police also contended that even the family of the accused is unaware of his whereabouts. Following the mysterious disappearance, former Karnataka minister Priyank Kharge held a press conference and sought an inquiry by a sitting Supreme Court judge into the incident.
Asianet Newsable spoke to Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Kamal Pant in this regard. He said, “Since the issue of his security came up, we allocated a gunman to him. Police had gone to the given address where his parents stay. They said that he has gone out and that he would be returning later. So the police personnel waited there. They returned after he failed to turn up. The next day, they again spoke to the parents on the phone. The parents said that they would notify the personnel when he returns. So far, we have not received any details about his whereabouts.”
Asked why the hacker was not under any sort of surveillance since his release on bail, the city police chief said, “The criminal has to abide by bail conditions. Law does not require us to follow that person who has come out on bail. Only if it is our requirement, particularly if it is a case of disturbance of peace and order; from policing perspective, we keep a watch on certain people.”
In his statement, which is now part of the police charge sheet in the case, Srikrishna claimed that he was behind the first-ever hacking and theft of bitcoins from a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange named Bitfinex in 2015. The hacking was allegedly done during his stay in the Netherlands. Senior Bengaluru Police officials had told this correspondent that information had been sought from Interpol over the cryptocurrency exchange hack and other claims made by Srikrishna, but received none.
Shedding more light, Police Commissioner Kamal Pant said, “Last five years, after 2016, when this so-called hacking of high volume took place in some countries, no legal document has been received — no email, no letter rogatory, no red corner notice has been received or correspondence have been made by anybody. Not even a single person from any company or law enforcement agency has visited Bengaluru. There is no information about the specifics being claimed by Srikrishna.”
According to reports, the accused developed an interest in hacking right from his school days as he grasped various computer language programs. He used to cheat on his attendance by altering attendance. He was made the admin for a Black Hat Hacker group while he was still in 8th grade. He also came in contact with people with a similar mindset around the world. It is alleged that while he was still in college, he hacked into a PayPal account. His alcohol and drug addiction made him hack more companies and transfer money into his account. He use to buy bitcoins and the same was used to get drugs through the ‘dark net’
In November last year, when Srikrishna and his friends went to collect a consignment of drugs from the post office, they were caught by the Central Crime Branch and booked in a drug-related case. During the probe, it was revealed that accused ‘Sriki’ had transferred money to Robin Khandelwal’s (another accused in the case) account. The investigation paved the way for other crimes involving hacking and 31 bitcoins worth Rs 9 crore were seized. He, however, managed to come out on bail soon.
Following the case by CCB and cybercrime police, the Enforcement Directorate too launched a probe after it emerged that Srikrishna allegedly made illegal wealth and also stole funds worth Rs 11.5 crore from the e-procurement cell of the Karnataka government. The agency also quizzed him for hacking into the account of other bitcoin account holders earlier. The ED officials have reportedly told the court that the accused and his associates have amassed wealth by hacking into websites and extorting money from owners.
Srikrishna and his friends were involved in a drunken brawl in Jeevan Bhima Nagar police limits and were arrested. During the probe, it was revealed that he had consumed drugs and he was booked under Section 27 of the NDPS Act. The accused was granted bail by Metropolitan Magistrate Court on November 9. A penalty of Rs 4,500 was imposed and a surety of 25,000 was collected for his release on condition. There are reportedly eight cases against him and he has managed to secure bail in all the cases. The city commissioner had been ordered to provide security and the jurisdictional police from Jayanagar was asked to give protection. However, when the police reached his official address on Wednesday, the accused was ‘missing’. Now the police have launched a search for him.