Another term associated with cryptocurrency is Blockchain. It stores information electronically in a digital format.
To begin with, let’s first understand what cryptocurrency really is, and the reason behind its popularity. By definition, it is decentralized digital money that’s based on blockchain technology. Most people may be familiar with Bitcoin and Ethereum — the most popular versions of cryptocurrency — but you may be surprised to know that there exist over 6,000 different forms in circulation.
It is the fact that there is no regulatory body that maintains and manages the value of a cryptocurrency. The dealings largely happen through crypto exchanges, which are unregulated. So why is it that people are drawn to this asset class, even if it is so risky? The answer is greed and instant money.
What really makes cryptocurrency different from physical currency?
A case that also came to the forefront was that of Amit Bhardwaj, Founder of GainBitcoin. If reports are to be believed, over 8,000 people have been found to have invested in his scheme that is allegedly Ponzi.
Most of the Ponzi schemes target the middle-class population, who want to live the dream of a luxurious life. These scams crash their dreams and aspirations, and instead dupe them of their hard-earned money. In the bargain, the losers are these people, while the kingpins make all the moolah.
Who is Amit Bhardwaj?
A former IT professional, Bhardwaj had quit his cushy job to launch India’s first online retail marketplace that accepted Bitcoin in 2014. The venture tanked after a while, but to recover losses, he then founded a series of Bitcoin mining firms such as GainBitcoin, GB Miners and MCAP. It was through these companies that he allegedly duped investors.
As per various confessions, it has come to light that investors were promised that they would get returns at a rate of 10% per year for 18 months, but that never happened. Bhardwaj is believed to be someone who understands the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of cryptocurrency. He has authored three books on the subject.
The dark web of crypto There are many rackets operating today, where people are trapped into investing in cryptocurrencies. When questioned, most investors have little to no information about the digital currency and put in their money only because they had heard of its benefits. Unfortunately, whichever company they invest in either engages in mining cryptocurrencies that have no value, or does not mine the real cryptocurrencies.
India ranks second highest in crypto adoption rate across the globe, as per one report, putting it far ahead of the US, the UK and China. This is rather alarming to say the least. Most financial experts attribute its rise to India’s “huge expatriate population”, which makes it the world’s number one remittance recipient in the crypto space. Data suggests there are more than 7 million investors with more than 7 billion in crypto investments. And with no regulations in place, these investors are just sitting ducks.
In April 2018, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) registered a case against Bhardwaj and his company, GainBitcoin, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Later, in September, they also seized his immovable properties and bank balance worth ₹42.88 crore. But it was less than a year later, in April 2019 that Bhardwaj was granted bail on medical grounds. Bhardwaj has 28 FIRS against him across the country. As of Oct 2021, he was yet to appear for investigations despite several summons by the ED. As of November 2021, the ED has upscaled the valuation of the scam from ₹2,000 crore to ₹20,000 crore.
Where is Bhardwaj today? The helplessness and loss experienced by investors in cryptocurrency has been deftly covered by the documentary Money Mafia Season 2 that airs on Discovery Plus. It also reveals how Bhardwaj convinced people into investing their money into cryptocurrency.