The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up Ajay Bhardwaj, the accused in the Gain Bitcoin scam, for not complying with its direction to divulge details of the username and password of cryptocurrency wallets to the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhardwaj, representing the ED, submitted before a bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud that Bhardwaj was not cooperating with the investigation agency, and he has not shared the username and password of the crypto currency wallets.
The ED, in a status report, said on March 28, during the course of hearing before the top court, the counsel for the petitioner made a statement that some part of the material is in possession of Pune police and the petitioner has disclosed relevant details.
“The petitioner never appeared before the Pune police at any point of time nor any details/ material pertaining to crimea..registered at Dattawadi Police Station and Nigadi Police Station were provided by the petitioner and the contention of the petitioner is completely false and misleading,” said the report.
Bhati said Bitcoin fraud is not through normal banking channels, and the wallets are with the family members. “Here proceedings are under PMLA, IPC. Bitcoins are taxable as an asset class. It’s a ponzi scheme”, said Bhati, seeking custodial interrogation of Bhardwaj.
The bench, also comprising Justice Surya Kant, told Bhardwaj’s counsel: “The dignity of the Supreme Court has to be maintained. We are not some Tis Hazari Court…”
Asking Bhardwaj to share the username and password, the bench added: “You will have to give the same and you can’t play with the court. We had recorded in our last order. We will have to dismiss it for non-compliance. Otherwise, you think that the Supreme Court is a district court where you can play all the games.”
On March 28, the top court had asked Bhardwaj to disclose the username and password of his crypto wallet to the ED. After learning that Bhardwaj was willing to share the information in presence of his lawyer, the bench told his counsel: “What is this? I want the lawyer to give the password? First comply with the order. You don’t need hardware and software for the password.”
Bhardwaj’s counsel contended that Pune police officers had changed the password of 2 crypto wallets and had transferred 1,200 bitcoins. The bench replied: “Whatever you have, please submit.”
The top court was hearing a petition filed by Bhardwaj seeking quashing of the case against him. He, along with his brother Amit Bhardwaj, the alleged mastermind who died recently, is accused of running a multi-level marketing scheme promising huge returns to investors.
The ED in its status report said: “The investigation conducted so far revealed that Amit Bhardwaj in connivance of petitioner, Vivek Bhardwaj, Mahender Bhardwaj and others i.e., multi-level marketing agents and associates have collected 80,000 Bitcoins as proceeds of crime.”