Police in India has arrested Nalin Kotidiya, a former Member of the Legislative Assembly with the BJP party, for his role in a bitcoin extortion case.
A suspect arrested earlier had implicated the ex-MLA as an accomplice in the kidnapping of Shailesh Bhatt, a local builder from the Surat area.
It is a major development for the police in their quest to bring the case to a quick conclusion. Kotadiya has evaded arrest since a court in Gujarat declared him an absconder last June.
The arrest is part of a wider investigation into a case that involves alleged extortion of about Rs 9.95 crore (USD 1.38 million) worth of Bitcoin.
In the case, Kotadiya is accused of being a mastermind behind the abduction of builder Shailesh Bhatt. He, along with others, then proceeded to demand close to 200 bitcoins from Bhatt.
Kirit Paladiya, a friend of Bhatt’s, was also kidnapped. However, it later turned out that he was part of the group of about 12 that was after the bitcoins.
The case also implicated an Inspector of police, one Anant Patel. Bhatt told investigators that Patel and ten other officers beat them and then forced Kirit to transfer the bitcoins from his mobile wallet.
Kirit, who was arrested in May, told the police that Kotadiya was involved, leading to a court summon for the former politician. However, he refused to appear in court.
The courts then issued a non-bailable warrant that officially declared him an absconder, rendering him a wanted criminal.
Mr. Kotadiya has maintained that he is innocent and that he was framed. Before the courts declared him wanted, he had communicated with the police while in hiding. He too accused Bhatt.
In the counter-claim, Mr. Kotadiya told the police that the main instigator of the kidnap and extortion syndicate was Shailesh Bhatt, the victim.
Further investigations have since uncovered a new twist to the case that has also implicated Bhatt. Detectives have information stating that he stole cash and over 2,300 bitcoins from two other investors.
The twists and turns, in this case, threaten to make this the biggest extortion case involving cryptocurrency in India.
Already, detectives are working on information that more people, including politicians, could be part of a larger group involved in bitcoin and other digital assets’ extortion.
Detectives from the Ahmedabad Crime Branch nabbed the former politician in a house on one of his properties in Dhule.
Ahmedabad Crime Branch Deputy Commissioner of Police Deepan Bhadran confirmed the arrest and said that the former Dhari MLA representative would be handed over to the CID for further questioning.
Afterward, the police will bring him before the court to answer a number of charges. According to police reports, Kotadiya will be charged with offenses relating to kidnapping for the purpose ransom, and extortion.
The two offenses fall under section 364-A and 384 of the Penal Code respectively. Other charges will be preferred as well, mainly as stipulated under the Prevention of Corruption Act of the Indian Penal Code.
Police are treating the case seriously and have indicated that Kotadiya is among the prime suspects in a case that spiral to net even more people.
India’s Deputy Inspector General of Police for the CID (crime division) Deepankar Trivedi has said that the politician was the main planner. He is the one who recruited rogue Amrelli police officers Ketan Patel.
“We have already recovered Rs 25 lakh extortion money paid to him. In all, we will have to recover around Rs 55-60 lakh from him.”