Suspect in Thai Bitcoin Scam Unable to Return to Thailand Due to Passport Revocation

The Foreign Ministry of Thailand has invalidated the passport of an alleged Bitcoin scammer, rendering him unable to return to his home country for prosecution.

The Foreign Ministry of Thailand has revoked the passport of an alleged crypto scammer, which has reportedly rendered him unable to return to his home country for prosecution, the Bangkok Post reports Wednesday, Oct. 10.

According to the report, Prinya Jaravijit was in the U.S. after a cryptocurrency investment scheme surfaced in which he and several accomplices allegedly defrauded a Finnish investor of $24 million.

The Crime Suppression Division’s (CSD) deputy commander Pol Col Chakrit Sawasdee claimed on Wednesday that the Foreign Ministry invalidated the passport of the prime suspect Jaravijit.

Sawasdee reportedly ordered the suspect to turn himself in by Monday, but Jaravijit stated that he was not able return to Thailand since his passport was revoked, making his stay in the U.S. illegal. Jaravijit was reportedly in the process of handling his return with the Thai embassy in the U.S.

On Tuesday, the Thai Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) confiscated funds worth $6.4 million from Jaravijit’s family and other people connected to the case. Next week, local police are reportedly set to charge the suspect’s family and elder brother with money laundering. The accused allegedly received money from Jaravijit and spent it later.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Jaravijit and his accomplices are accused of defrauding Finnish millionaire Aarni Otava Saarima and his business partner, who were lured into investing their Bitcoin (BTC) in a fake investment scheme involving three companies and  gambling-focused crypto token Dragon Coin.

The alleged scammers took their victims to a Macau-based casino, where they claimed the tokens would be used. Saarima subsequently transferred his bitcoins, but never saw returns, nor shareholder papers or proof of investment in Dragon Coin. Saarima approached the CSD with a complaint in January.

The deputy commander reported that the other suspects have all been members of the Jaravijit family, including investor Prasit Srisuwan and businessman Chakrit Ahmad, who reportedly have reached a compensation settlement with the Finnish investor.

The case first came to light in August, when Thai police arrested 27-year old soap-opera star Jiratpisit “Boom” Jaravijit, who is reportedly one of the seven suspects involved in the $24 million crypto scam.

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Government Tracking of Crypto Is Growing, But There Are Ways to Avoid It

More governments are tracking crypto, but ways to stay anonymous remain.

Much noise has been made about the untraceable qualities of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin “can be used to buy merchandise anonymously” said early primers on crypto, it offers users the kind of financial privacy that was previously available only from a “Swiss bank account,” say more recent commentators. And given its ability to provide people with a layer of anonymity and privacy, it has been smeared by politicians, experts and mainstream journalists alike as a hiding place for almost any hacker, drug dealer, gang member, terrorist or despot you could possibly name (even if cash is still the preferred financial medium of such personae non gratae).

It’s therefore no wonder that, for several years, governments have been feverishly trying to trace Bitcoin’s circulation, as well as that of other digital currencies. And despite the popular reputation of most cryptocurrencies as anonymous, they’ve been aided in this pursuit by the fact that most cryptos are not anonymous, but rather pseudonymous. In other words, by linking transactions to fixed wallet addresses, and by keeping a public record of every single transaction ever made on their chains, most popular cryptocurrencies provide national governments with an almost perfect means of keeping tabs on our financial activity.

However, while many governments have begun capitalizing on this very convenient affordance by building systems that compile transaction data and scraped private info into a single database, most have only just begun moving in this direction. And more importantly, there are a number of privacy coins – Monero being the most prominent  – that don’t offer a public record linking transactions to wallets, while there are also mixing tools for making the transactions of non-privacy coins private. As such, there are still ways to remain anonymous in crypto for those who want to keep a low profile, despite the best efforts of governments in the US, Russia, Japan, and elsewhere.

Japan and Russia

Japan and Russia

As the most recent example of government crypto monitoring, the Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) announced plans to implement a system that can reportedly “track” cryptocurrency transactions within Japan. While specific technical details are scarce, the software is being developed by an unnamed private company and will cost the NPA around $315,000 next year to run. In particular, its main function will be to trace transactions reported to it as ‘suspicious’, linking them together into a visualization that will, in theory, enable it to pinpoint the sources and destinations of illicit money.

For the most part, it will receive its reports of suspicious activity from Japanese crypto-exchanges, which ever since the May introduction (by the Financial Services Agency) of anti-money laundering (AML) legislation have been sending it intelligence on potentially illegal transactions and the accounts associated with them. Indeed, this reporting is precisely what makes a ‘transaction-tracking system’ possible, rather than the invention of some novel cryptographic technology capable of breaking through the pseudonymity/anonymity of most cryptocurrencies. Simply, exchanges are being legally required to follow strict know-your-customer (KYC) policies, which enable them to link real-world identities to addresses and to transactions recorded on public blockchains. And given that they’re supplying this info to the NPA, all the NPA will really be doing with their system is feeding such info into a database and creating visualizations of the flow of crypto.

What this means is that such a system isn’t likely to have much direct application to anyone who circumvents (regulated) exchanges when receiving and sending crypto. That said, even if certain users stay away from Japanese exchanges they could still be linked to illicit crypto if said crypto has passed through an exchange and already raised suspicions. Either way, another area to which the system isn’t likely to have much direct application are privacy-enabling coins such as Monero, Zcash and Dash, since rather than attempting to track such coins the Japanese authorities have merely decided to ban exchanges from carrying them.

A similar story is currently emerging in Russia, where the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring) has contracted for a system that will collate various sources of information regarding suspects in finance-related crimes. As reported by the BBC Russia service, the system will be used to create profiles for suspects, to which the authorities then add whatever relevant info they can gleam about him or her: phone numbers, bank card details, physical addresses, and crypto wallet addresses. Once again, the system hasn’t been designed specifically to compromise the cryptography of Bitcoin or any other crypto, but rather seeks to simply add wallet information – where available – to any other data Rosfinmonitoring has on a suspect.

By doing this, the Russian authorities clearly hope to prevent suspects from laundering any illicitly gained money via crypto, while they also assert that they intend to stop crypto being used directly for illegal purposes. “Because of their anonymity and the inability to trace them,” German Klimenko – an ex-advisor to Vladimir Putin on internet development (and head of the cryptocurrency group at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) – told the BBC. “Cryptocurrency is used in grey areas, in the dark web, for buying weapons, drugs, or violent videos. Lawmakers of many countries are wary of this phenomenon: this was confirmed by the analysis that we conducted under orders from the president [Putin].”

While Russia hasn’t introduced regulations requiring exchanges to uphold strict AML and KYC policies, the State Duma is in the process of negotiating a digital assets bill that would do just that. And once this bill has passed, Russian authorities will – like their Japanese counterparts – have access to info on the identities of wallet holders. As a result, the Rosfinmonitoring service will be able to enter this information in the soon-to-be-launched system (coming at the end of 2018), which will enable it to link transactions, wallets, and identities together.

But because this system will be tapping into crypto-exchange records rather than novel ‘crypto-hacking’ technology, it’s likely that it won’t apply to all cryptocurrencies and all cryptocurrency users. Some experts even believe that it will have a largely counterproductive effect, forcing many cryptocurrencies and their users to become more untraceable.

“If you look at the entire volume of laundered funds, the share that is laundered through cryptocurrency is very small,” Anton Merkurov – an advisor with US-based the Free Russia Foundation – said. “Let’s say the turnover of the local exchange is about one billion rubles [around $14.7 million] a week. This, in fact, is not very much. Instead of catching the proverbial Colonel Zakharchenko [a former anti-corruption officer who was caught with around $140 million in bribe money in 2016], authorities are trying to find a microbe under a microscope in a drop of water. This should not be a priority. And most importantly, start pressing there and opposition will begin, you will think up real tools for laundering.”

The United States

The United States

While the systems being rolled out by Japan and Russia largely depend on cooperation from crypto-exchanges and on piecing together disparate sources of information, there are indications that some governments at least have taken a more direct approach to identifying crypto users.

The US, to take the most notable – and disconcerting – example, has developed a covert piece of technology that can actually extract raw internet data from fiber-optic cables in order to identify the IP addresses and IDs of those sending and receiving Bitcoin. According to documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 and published by the Intercept in March 2018, the technology in question is a program developed by the National Security Agency (NSA) and known as OAKSTAR. Masquerading as a piece of virtual private network (VPN) and downloaded by some 16,000 users in such nations as China and Iran, the program instead siphons data from an “unspecified ‘foreign’ fiber cable site,” according to the Intercept.

Using this data, the NSA can then extract such information from Bitcoin users as their password information, their internet browsing activity, and their MAC address, while certain whistle-blown docs also discuss extracting users’ internet addresses, timestamps, and network ports. Effectively, OAKSTAR can be used to gather much more than the information necessary to identify someone and link them to specific Bitcoin addresses and transactions, and it can do so without having to rely on crypto-exchanges.

This is a big blow for Bitcoin privacy. As Cornell University professor Emin Gün Sirer told the Intercept:

“People who are privacy conscious will switch to privacy-oriented coins […] when the adversary model involves the NSA, the pseudonymity disappears. You should really lower your expectations of privacy on this network.”

Similarly, Matthew Green – an assistant prof. at Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute (and a key Zcash developer) – explained to the Intercept that the NSA’s exploits are “bad news for privacy, because it means that in addition to the really hard problem of making [crypto] transactions private […] you also have to make sure all the network connections [are private].”

As alarming as OAKSTAR and the activity surrounding it are, no new information has emerged recently to indicate that the NSA has extended its Bitcoin-tracking endeavors to other cryptocurrencies. There’s also the fact that its ability to link certain people with Bitcoin wallets is predicated on these people unwittingly downloading a piece of software that secretly extracts their internet data (while purporting to provide some other service). As a result, if users stick to VPN packages (and other pieces of software) they know and trust, it’s likely they will avoid the NSA’s long claws.

This reassurance aside, there is still the predictable reality that the United States government has been seeking user data from cryptocurrency exchanges, and has been doing so for longer than either the Japanese or Russian governments. In November 2016, for instance, it filed a legal summons that required Coinbase to provide the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) with the identities of an unspecified number of individuals associated with a number of cryptocurrency wallets. As Cointelegraph reported at the time, this summons was significant not so much in itself, but because it indicated that the IRS had been able to track certain wallets to an extent sufficient to determine that they’d been involved in the violation of tax legislation. Similarly, it also indicated that the IRS had been able to determine that the wallets were attached to Coinbase.

While the IRS unsurprisingly hasn’t divulged how it was able to track these wallets, a 2015 document leaked to the Daily Beast in 2017 revealed that it awarded a contract to Chainalysis, a Switzerland-based “blockchain intelligence” provider that monitors cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin for compliance reasons. As Cointelegraph reported at the time, Chainalysis uses “data scraped from public forums, leaked data sources including dark web, exchange deposits and withdrawals to tag and identify transactions.” It attempts to combine what’s made publicly available on blockchains with personal info unthinkingly/carelessly left by crypto users on the web. It runs, therefore, another system that is less about cryptographically penetrating blockchains and more about simply putting together all the disparate threads of info strewn across the Internet.

And even though the IRS hasn’t explicitly acknowledged its employment of Chainalysis or any other service, it’s also interesting to note that past instances where an agency of the federal US government has succeeded in tracking crypto users have potentially involved input from the NSA. In October 2013, Ross Ulbricht was arrested by FBI agents in San Francisco and then charged (almost a year later) with conspiracy to traffic narcotics, money laundering, and computer hacking. During his trial, he claimed his prosecution violated the fourth amendment (i.e. right to protection against unwarranted searches), since the only way the FBI could have identified him was through the illegal help of the NSA and its data-gathering trickery. Needless to say, this defense didn’t exactly work, yet the Intercept noted that the NSA’s OAKSTAR project got under way six months before Ulbricht was arrested. More interestingly, the website also published classified documents in November 2017 revealing that the NSA had secretly helped the FBI secure other convictions in the past.

Whatever the truth behind Ulbricht’s conviction, it’s clear that the NSA has had the ability to covertly identify Bitcoin users for over five years, while it’s also true that other US agencies have been tracking crypto transactions (using undisclosed means). As such, it’s a safe bet to say that American crypto users should probably think carefully before engaging in anything Uncle Sam wouldn’t condone.

China, India and beyond

China and India

It would appear that few nations can match the US in the reach and power of their crypto-tracking activities. However, this isn’t stopping many from trying. In China, reports emerged in March that the Public Information Network Security Supervision (PINSS) agency has been monitoring foreign crypto-exchanges that serve Chinese customers. Even though the government has banned domestic exchanges and trading on foreign alternatives, this hasn’t stopped every Chinese trader from seeking out crypto abroad. Because of this, PINSS has been ‘monitoring’ foreign exchanges so as to “prevent illegal money laundering, pyramid schemes [and] fraud,” according to Chinese news outlet Yicai.

While Yicai could confirm via sources at PINSS that such monitoring had been underways since September 2017, it couldn’t explain just what kind of monitoring was being pursued, or whether the Chinese government was actively trying to identify individuals trading in crypto. Still, whatever the extent of the surveillance involved, the knowledge that other nations are tracking crypto would indicate that Chinese traders should also add themselves to the growing list of ‘people who ought to be careful.’

So too should Indian traders, who in January may or may not have learned that their government was keeping tabs on them for tax purposes. Actually, chances are they would have learned about this, since the Indian tax department sent notices to “tens of thousands” of investors (according to Reuters), after having conducted national surveys and having obtained user data from nine Indian exchanges. This provided a clear signal that the government was indeed tracking cryptocurrency transactions, something which it had begun contemplating in July 2017, when India’s Supreme Court demanded information from it and the Reserve Bank of India on the steps being taken to ensure that crypto isn’t being used for illicit purposes.

As reported in July by Indian news website LiveMint, the system the government was considering, would involve cooperation between the central bank, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), and India’s intelligence agencies. However, as the involvement of India’s crypto-exchanges in January’s tax notices reveals, it’s once again likely that the system currently rests on input from these exchanges, rather than on technology comparable to the NSA’s, for instance.

Other than the prominent examples of Japan, Russian, the US, China and India, there are few other cases of national governments going public with (or being known for) crypto-tracking systems. Nonetheless, even if there’s currently no public record of other governments investigating the potential for tracking systems, it’s highly probable that those governments with a significant interest in crypto have contemplated a tracking system in one form or another.

UK and EU

For example, the UK and EU governments jointly announced in December 2017 that they’re planning a “crackdown” on crypto-enabled money laundering and tax evasion. UK economic secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said in last October:

“The UK government is currently negotiating amendments to the anti-money-laundering directive that will bring virtual currency exchange platforms and custodian wallet providers into anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulation, which will result in these firms’ activities being overseen by national competent authorities for these areas.”

While this doesn’t confirm tracking, it would at least imply it, since the ability to enforce AML legislation entails that governmental bodies and departments should have some means of not only detecting when someone is earning crypto that needs to be taxed, but also determining just who that person is. Hence, UK and EU authorities need to have some kind of tracking system in place, otherwise their threats of ‘cracking down’ on money laundering and the like will equate to only so much hot air.

And in the future, it may become increasingly possible for them or any other government, regardless of technological development, to carry through with such threats. In April, a corporate giant none other than Amazon, received a patent for a “streaming data marketplace” that would permit the combining of multiple data sources, thereby enabling the real-time tracking of cryptocurrency transactions and the users involved. As the text of the patent makes clear, this technology could potentially be offered to governments, who would be able to link crypto addresses to official IDs:

“The electronic retailers may combine the shipping address with the bitcoin transaction data to create correlated data and republish the combined data as a combined data stream. A group of telecommunications providers may subscribe downstream to the combined data stream and be able to correlate the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of the transactions to countries of origin. Government agencies may be able to subscribe downstream and correlate tax transaction data to help identify transaction participants.”

Given the arrival of such technology (and the current existence of such firms as Chainalysis), it’s only a matter of time before transactions involving Bitcoin, Ethereum or any other non-privacy cryptocurrency will be systematically de-anonymized. It will take some time, particularly given that Amazon’s patent requires its users (e.g. retailers and telecoms providers) to combine separate pieces of data in order to create correlations. Still, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that things are moving in only one direction when it comes to the privacy and anonymity of crypto.

Privacy coins

And in light of this direction, anyone wanting to keep their chances of being identified as low as possible is advised to migrate to one of the so-called privacy coins. Monero is the most well-known of these, having entered into 10 most valuable cryptocurrencies by market cap since its initial launch in April 2014. More than anything else, what distinguishes it from the likes of Bitcoin is its CryptoNight proof-of-work algorithm, which uses a mix of ring signatures and stealth addresses to not only bury the sender’s wallet address in those of multiple other users, but also to hide the precise amount being transferred.

It’s because of this that the cryptocurrency has proven popular with those who’ve needed to evade government power (for whatever reason), and such is Monero’s apparent ability in preserving anonymity that its price increased by around 2,883% between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2017 (from $12.3 to $358). By contrast, Bitcoin’s 2017 growth rate was a slightly less impressive 1,357%.

2,883% may be impressive, but it pales in comparison to the 9,000% growth enjoyed in 2017 by Dash, another altcoin with certain privacy-enhancing qualities. The 13th most valuable cryptocurrency by total market cap, its PrivateSend feature mixes addresses so as to obscure the origins and destinations of transactions, in the process making it noticeably harder for any interested authority to put the pieces together.

This may be a part of the reason why the currency has took off so spectacularly in Venezuela, where the government cracked down on such cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, in a big way last year (before showing favoritism towards its own oil-backed Petro coin). Venezuelans also turned increasingly to Zcash during this period, which has become the 21st biggest cryptocurrency since launching in October 2016. Building upon Bitcoin Core’s architecture and using zero-knowledge proofs, it keeps the sender and receiver’s pseudonyms private, while also doing the same for the quantity being transacted.

Therefore, a choice of privacy coins is available for anyone worried about the growing ability of governments to track crypto transactions. And even if a concerned crypto user holds no Monero, Dash, or Zcash, they can still take advantage of the various mixing services available for non-privacy coins. For example, there are anonymization protocols available that, much like the features available via Monero and Zcash, enables senders and receivers of Bitcoin to mix their transactions with those of other senders and receivers, making it very difficult to disentangle the multiple threads involved. Such protocols include the likes of CoinJoin, Dark Wallet, bestmixer.io, SharedCoin, and CoinSwap, all of which also provide holders of Bitcoin and other cryptos with the ability to anonymize their transactions.

So even though cryptocurrency tracking is increasing, crypto investors and holders needn’t be overly fearful of government surveillance. For one, most of the tracking systems in use or which are being developed rely on input from crypto-exchanges, while others (such as those provided by Chainalysis) depend on scavenging data that users may have left carelessly throughout the web. Meanwhile, more direct and intrusive methods being honed by the NSA also rely on crypto users unknowingly compromising their internet connections, something which couldn’t be counted on for monitoring all cryptocurrency transactions en masse. This is why, in addition to such privacy coins as Monero and Zcash, privacy-conscious crypto holders shouldn’t be too concerned, since there are ways of remaining anonymous for those who want it bad enough.

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South Korea’s Democratic Party Lawmaker Urges Authorities to ‘Open Up the Road’ to ICOs

South Korea’s Democratic Party lawmaker urges the state to “open up the road” to ICOs by easing regulations.

A member of South Korea’s National Assembly has called on the state to “open up the road” to Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) by easing regulations, South Korean financial outlet Economy reports October 2.

According to the article, Min Byung-doo, a Democratic Party lawmaker, will introduce a project of for ICO legislation at the next round of the National Assembly.

He claimed that the purpose of the new legislation is to allow ICOs while enforcing strict regulation for the negative parts of the industry, noting:

“We are looking at ways to open up the road to ICO[s] while strictly prohibiting negative factors such as fraud, speculation and money laundering.”

Min Byung-doo has reportedly also suggested to local authorities such as the Financial Services Commission (FSC) that the government should legalize ICO operations in the country, claiming that “prohibition is not the only way.” According to Economy, after consulting with the government and the FSC, the authorities’ stance has “changed prospectively compared with the past.”

Calling on the government to ease regulations for the industry, Min Byung-doo noted that the ban on ICO causes “weakening competitiveness” in South Korea’s blockchain industry, comparing it with the levels in the progress by the U.S., adding:

“[South Korea’s] blockchain-related industries were at the top of the world in terms of competitiveness, but the competitiveness in ICOs has dropped sharply. Now, 75% of projects in the industry belong to the United States only, which is the world’s top competitor.”

The lawmaker warned that an uncertain future of regulation for the industry will “prevent the growth of the industry itself.”

South Korea’s financial regulator, the FSC, announced they will ban all types of ICOs in September 2017, claiming that ICO token sales require strict monitoring and oversight. The original ban has since been followed by subsequent hints of a possible reverse of the ban.

In May of this year, South Korea’s government considered re-legalizing ICOs, with a National Assembly committee speaking of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” and aiming to expand the legal basis for crypto industry in the country, including a reversal of the ICO ban.

South Korea’s lawmakers most recently discussed the ICO ban at the end of August, debating the ban’s reversal as well as considering setting up the country’s own “blockchain island.” According to the report, discussions of a reversal were expected to gain momentum amid the preparation of investor protection rules, as well as the formation of a task force to oversee crypto trading.

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IMF Urges Marshall Islands to Reconsider Adopting Digital Currency as Second Legal Tender

The IMF has warned the Marshall Islands about the risks of adopting a digital currency as a second legal tender, urging it to “seriously reconsider.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) about the risks of adopting a cryptocurrency as a second legal tender, according to an official press release published on September 10.

In the report, the U.S.-based agency backed by the United Nations addresses the government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, stating that the introduction of digital currency as an official form of legal tender will pose risks to the country’s financial integrity, as well as relationships with foreign banks.

By adopting digital currency as a second official currency after the U.S. dollar, the Bank of Marshall Islands (BOMI) — the only local commercial bank of the country — will elevate the risk of losing “the last U.S. dollar correspondent banking relationship (CBR)” as a result of heightened diligence by banks in the U.S., the statement says.

Since the Marshall Islands are “highly dependent on receiving and spending U.S. grants,” the IMF states that the loss of important banking relationships could harm the country’s economy.

Moreover, the IMF believes that the costs of adopting cryptocurrency, such as the development and enforcement of anti-money laundering (AML) and counter financing of terrorism (CFT) policies, are “considerably smaller” than any potential financial gains:

“The potential benefits from revenue gains appear considerably smaller than the potential costs arising from economic, reputational, AML/CFT, and governance risks. In the absence of adequate measures to mitigate them, the authorities should seriously reconsider the issuance of the digital currency as legal tender.”

The IMF urged Marshalese authorities to reconsider issuing a digital currency until the government is able to provide and implement “strong policy frameworks” in regards to economic, reputational, AML/CFT, and governance risks.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands — with a population of roughly 53,000 — first revealed plans to release its own cryptocurrency dubbed the Sovereign (SOV) in February 2018. As officials then claimed, the Sovereign currency would be “another step of manifesting [their] national liberty.” The Sovereign is set to be an alternative to the official currency of the U.S. dollar, and is planned to be distributed via Initial Coin Offering (ICO).

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India: Former Legislator Remanded in Custody in Connection With Bitcoin Extortion Case

Former Indian politician Nalin Kotadiya has been remanded in custody for his alleged involvement in a 200 BTC extortion case.

Nalin Kotadiya, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) official and former Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), has been remanded in custody for ten days in connection with a $1.3 million Bitcoin (BTC) extortion case, the Times of India reported September 10.

A special anti-corruption court has reportedly remitted Kotadiya in police custody for a ten day custodial interrogation after he was arrested by the city crime branch and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Kotadiya was allegedly involved in a $1.3 million BTC extortion case.

In April, the CID began investiging the reported kidnapping and extortion of 200 BTC from an Indian businessman and builder Sailesh Bhatt. Bhatt accused Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer Sunil Nair and other policemen of beating him until he paid a ransom of around $770,000 in February.

After he was released, Bhatt was allegedly kidnapped and taken to a farm where he was forced to send 200 BTC to former business partner Kirit Paladiya. Bhatt also claimed that Kotadiya pressured him to pay the ransom.

In June, an Indian court declared Kotadiya a proclaimed offender in connection with the case, however Kotadiya “remained untraceable,” even after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

In July, a senior official from the Indian opposition party the Indian National Congress (INC), Shaktisinh Gohil, demanded a probe into a “mega Bitcoin scam” estimated at about $723 million.

The crime  supposedly involves leaders of the majority BJP, which used BTC as a “cover-up” for money laundering and extortion. While, Kotadiya “remained untraceable,” Gohil said that “if he is arrested, he will reveal damning evidences which will expose top BJP leaders in the state.”

Today, the CID reportedly claimed that custodial interrogation is a necessary part of the investigation, which could help identify the individuals behind the BTC extortion scheme. Additionally, the custodial interrogation aims to discover how the extortion funds were divvied up. Kotadiya reportedly ordered the transfer of Rs 25 lakh ($35,528) to a witness.

Speaking before the court, Kotadiya reportedly said he went into hiding because he feared for his life because he was privy to compromising information about politicians and industrial enterprise owners. Kotadiya also said there was a conspiracy to kill him.

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President of Chile’s Central Bank Considers Cryptocurrency Regulation, Says It Is Useful for ‘Monitoring Risks’

The president of Chile’s Central Bank believes that cryptocurrency regulation could allow better monitory of risks in the market.

Mario Marcel, the president of Chile’s Central Bank, is considering regulating cryptocurrencies in the country in order to monitor risks, local news outlet El Economista reported Tuesday, May 15.

Cryptocurrencies in Chile are not currently considered as money or securities, but there are no laws in place that prevent citizens from exchanging crypto for goods and services.

During a forum of the Finance Commission of Deputies, Marcel said that “incorporating regulation will allow having a registry of participants in these activities and thus have information to monitor the associated risks”:

“These activities could be developed under more robust standards and mechanisms, especially in terms of market transparency, consumer protection, and prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing.”

At the end of March, Chilean crypto exchange Buda and Crypto MKT asked the Chilean Association of Banks (ABIF) to provide a clear position on crypto and crypto trading after some of their accounts were closed by various Chilean banks.

In mid-April, three Chilean crypto exchanges – Buda, Orionx, and Crypto MKT – went to an appeals court to protest this closure, which was seen by some as the banks using their power to curtail the cryptocurrency industry. At the end of April, Chile’s anti-monopoly court ruled that Buda’s accounts must be reopened at state bank Banco del Estado de Chile and Itau Corpbanca.

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