Bitcoin scam hardly gets attention in just-concluded session

The issue hardly got any attention in the just-concluded session

The alleged bitcoin scam, which made big news and embarrassed Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai last month, was expected to rock the Assembly session in Belagavi. However, it hardly came up for discussion. With this, the entire epidose is likely to quietly disappear from public discourse.

In the run-up to the session Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah and former Information Technology Minister Priyank Kharge held press conferences and accused the Government of a “cover-up” of the scam, alleging that hacker Srikrishna had hacked thousands of bitcoins which had gone “missing.” Mr. Bommai had been Home Minister under B.S. Yediyurappa when the scam occurred and it was alleged that some senior leaders and officers were involved. However, the Congress did not take up the issue in the Assembly.

Evidence issues

While a section of the MLAs said the issue was not taken up due to lack of time, a senior Congress MLA said the party dithered from raising the bitcoin scam as they did not have adequate documentary evidence. “Except Srikrishna’s voluntary statement in which he confessed to hacking Bitfinex coins, which is not legally admissible, there is no evidence available,” said the MLA, who served as a Minister.

However, AICC general secretary Randeep Surjewala had held a press conference in Delhi in which he demanded that the movement of hacked and blacklisted Bitfinex coins (in December 2020 and April 2021), be probed, a demand the party did not make in the session. Sources said at the peak of allegations a month ago, the city police had proposed a judicial inquiry into the alleged scam but the Government stalled it, saying they would opt for it only if it was inevitable, during the Winter session.

Another senior Congress MLA said the ruling party had alleged that Mohammed Nalpad, president-elect of Youth Congress unit in the State, and the son of another Congress leader Rudrappa Lamani, who was arrested in the narcotics case, were linked to the hacker. Some in the party feared that the BJP would use this to turn the tables on them. “But the voluntary statement of Srikrishna only said he knew Nalpad before 2018 and later lost all contact. The police have not called him even for questioning in the bitcoin scam. The party I feel unnecessarily became wary of raising the issue,” he said.

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