Mastermind behind Indian crypto fraud scheme arrested at Delhi airport

The Indian man allegedly defrauded investors of 25 million rupees using a fraudulent cryptocurrency.

A 60-year-old man was arrested at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Thursday. He is accused of being the mastermind behind a 25 million rupee (US$340,000) crypto fraud scheme.

Former jeweller and postcard maker Umesh Verma was arrested by the Economic Crimes Branch of Delhi Police after he returned to India from Dubai.

Verma and his son Bharat allegedly persuaded hundreds of people to invest in a fraudulent crypto project called Pluto Exchange, which promised monthly returns of 20-30%.

The project did this by issuing a supposed „cryptocurrency“ called Coin Zarus, which investors bought in return for their investment. Not long after the Ponzi scheme began operating in November 2017, however, no returns were paid out and Verma disappeared from the scene. He then resurfaced in Dubai in 2018.

Delhi Police filed a misappropriation of funds charge against Verma in September 2020, on the basis of which he was arrested on New Year’s Eve.

According to a Hindustan Times report, Pluto Exchange had also launched India’s first trading app for cryptocurrencies, through which Bitcoin (BTC) could allegedly be traded via smartphone.

Verma was already in custody for gold smuggling in December 2017, but this is not related to the current case.

The legal use of cryptocurrencies also still has a hard time in India at the moment, because although the Indian Constitutional Court had lifted any crypto ban by the country’s central bank in 2020, many investors still see considerable hurdles to entering the crypto market.