India: Former Legislator Remanded in Custody in Connection With Bitcoin 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.