In the long-pending case of the alleged GainBitcoin scam, Amit Bhardwaj’s brother Vivek Bhardwaj and his mother Bimla Devi have now joined the Enforcement Directorate investigation.
Amit Bhardwaj, the alleged mastermind behind the GainBitcoin scam, was arrested in March 2018 and later granted bail by the Supreme Court on April 3, 2019. Bhardwaj had founded a slew of companies and is infamous for running GainBitcoin, an MLM scheme that promised 10% monthly returns on bitcoin investments. Bhardwaj has about 28 FIRs against him across the country.
Earlier this week, Bhardwaj’s mother and brother (Vivek Bhardwaj) appeared before the apex agency, sources close to ED told Inc42.
The ED had first issued summons to Amit Bhardwaj and the other accused (Hemant Bhope, Akash Sancheti, and others) on January 1, 2021. Since then multiple summons were issued to Amit Bhardwaj, his brothers: Ajay Bhardwaj, Vivek Bhardwaj, mother Bimla Devi, father Mahendra Kumar, and others.
On October 29, in PMLA special Court, special public prosecutor Kavita Patil in her submission said that Vivek Bhardwaj did not appear in the court, at least on two occasions, and had sent lawyers on his behalf. Vivek was however granted interim bail by the PMLA session court, Mumbai and was ordered to cooperate in the investigation.
Meanwhile, in September 2021, Amit Bhardwaj had filed a fresh application at PMLA Sessions Court, Mumbai, seeking exemption from the appearance. Bhardwaj has cited Supreme Court’s judgments in his application. The Supreme Court had exempted Amit Bhardwaj from physical appearances across court citing his bad health conditions.
As a result, the ED Mumbai team had visited Amit Bhardwaj’s Delhi residence on May 24th 2021 and Bhardwaj had appeared before the ED on May 24, 25 and 26, 2021.
Speaking to Inc42, Bhardwaj’s legal counsel Ankit Verma said that ED has wrongly framed Bhardwaj.
“The ED must have some evidence to show that tainted money has been converted into untainted money. The whole case of ED is on Statements of co-accused and the complainant, and are voluntary statements,” Verma said.
According to Inc42 sources, ED has now also included Gurugram-based Darwin Labs cofounders Nikunj Jain, Sahil Baghla and Ayush Varshney in their GainBitcoin investigation. Darwin Labs has been accused of helping Amit Bhardwaj in building pre-mined MCAP tokens.
Speaking to Inc42, some of the victims had earlier alleged that Darwin Labs founders were also the beneficiaries of the investments made by ~8,000 investors in GainBitcoin and other funds run by Amit Bhardwaj. However, in their bail application at the Bombay High Court, the trio had denied these accusations.
The next hearing is scheduled for 23rd and 26th November at the Supreme Court and Session Court, Mumbai respectively.
ED Revises The GainBitcoin Scam Size To INR 20,000 Cr
Amid increasing bitcoin value, the ED has revised the scam size to INR 20,000 Cr. The initial estimation was INR 2,000 Cr. However, according to sources close to the development, the actual amount could be much higher.
Amit Bhardwaj’s top agents included Hemant Chandrakant Bhope, Ashish Dabas, Manu Sharma, Rupesh Singh, Pankaj Adlakha and Aditi Bhardwaj. In its report, ED has alleged that over 82,132 bitcoins were collected under Manu Sharma, and Aditi Bhardwaj had collected about 7,000 bitcoins from her downlinks.
While it’s not clear how many bitcoins were collected from Hemant Bhope’s downlinks, however, according to ED, Bhope had earned over 520 bitcoins in commission. The ED has not been able to trace the entire MLM chain from top Amit Bhardwaj to bottom and their bitcoin earning and collection from downlinks accordingly.
The Lack Of Expertise Leads To Half Baked Investigation
The ED has attached the ICICI current account number of Hemant Chandrakant Bhope’s wife, which Bhope allegedly used for the fund transfers. It has also attached the bank accounts of the other accused as well.
However, ED has not collaborated with blockchain intelligence firms that could trace nodes. Hence, the bitcoins and other crypto transfers related to GainBitcoin and other funds of Amit Bhardwaj have not been identified or recovered yet, Inc42 sources said.
As a result, all the accused have taken either anticipatory bail or interim bail from various Courts.