Mumbai’s Rs 500-crore cryptocurrency scam: Main accused believed to be in Dubai

MUMBAI : It’s been a year since the Thane Crime Branch raided Amit Lakhanpal’s office at Orion Business Park on Ghodbunder Road for allegedly running a Rs 500-crore scam, in which he has duped more than 25,000 investors. But investigators are yet to get hold of Lakhanpal, who they say is in Dubai. Even before the FIR was lodged in Thane, he fled to Dubai

On June 4, 2017, the Crime Branch was tipped off about a cryptocurrency scam in Thane following which it raided Lakhanpal’s office. Fifty-three laptops and the “technical brain” of the scam, Taha Kazi, was arrested.

The investors were allegedly duped by Lakhanpal into investing in their newly launched cryptocurrency ‘Money Trade Coin’ (MTC). The complainant was Pravin Agarwal from New Delhi.

MTC was launched in July 2017 in Dubai, an event attended by several celebrities. Initially, he launched around 105 million coins. Later, he was expected to launch another 20 million coins. On October 18, 2017, he called another press conference at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Colaba, which was hosted by Bollywood actress Lara Dutta. He then opened offices in Vikhroli and Thane.

Police said employees of Lakhanpal-led Flinstones Group lured people into investing money with the false promise of heavy returns. “They claimed investors would get 10-20 per cent returns in six months. The investors were then told to get more people who would want to earn quick money,” a Crime Branch officer said.

Police said the company would even trap the victims by offering them free citizenship on the Caribbean Islands and accounts in Swiss banks. Two weeks after Kazi’s arrest, Lankhanpal sent his accountant Sachin Shellar to Mumbai to convince investigators that what they were doing was above board. Shellar was arrested.