Darwin Labs’ founders arrested for links with Amit Bhardwaj in $300 Mn Bitcoin scam

Nikunj Jain

Roots of $300 million worth Bitcoin-based scam hatched by GainBitcoin’s founder Amit Bhardwaj are getting deeper and engulfing notable personalities such as Sahil Baghla and Nikunj Jain.

Bangla and Jain, serial entrepreneurs and co-founders of the Gurugram-based Darwin Labs, were arrested on the grounds of having key connections with Bhardwaj and his company.

The duo was allegedly a part of the conspiracy and working as partners with Bhardwaj. As per the report by Cyber wing of Pune Police, the duo built the portal – GBMiner, a BTC payment gateway and mining pool. These entities were used by Bhardwaj in the scam.

At the time of arrest, police also seized 43.225 Bitcoins, 79.949 Ethereum, Rs 33 lakh in cash, a laptop and some mobile handsets, reports Pune Mirror.

Jain is an entrepreneur and active angel investor with a portfolio of over half a dozen companies. He also co-founded startups such as Frankly.Me, InnoxApps and Darwin Labs.

Baghla is an IIT alumnus and previously founded a fan merchandising online store Bluegape. Currently, he is the founder of Murmur.

Earlier this month, Bhardwaj was held in Bangkok and brought back to Pune for trial in $300 million worth Bitcoin-based Ponzi scheme. During the interrogation, Bhardwaj revealed that Darwin Lab owners, Ayush Warshne, Jain, and Baghla were his partners in the ventures — Bitcoin, Emcab and Coin Bank.

Following the inputs from Bhardwaj, sleuths procured email exchanges between the promoters of Darwin Labs and Bhardwaj for the appointment of lawyer and CA for routing money overseas to evade tax.

The email exchanges between the prime accused and Darwin Labs co-founders also unearth the fact that they were planning to transfer money made in the scam to a particular country where they can have access to it.

The report also adds that Bhardwaj and Darwin Lab were involved with another partner, who is a part of the conspiracy.

Meanwhile, Bhardwajs’ (Amit and Vivek Bhardwaj) lawyers have opposed their police custody under the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (MPID) Act, Chit Fund Act and Protection of Depositors Act. The defense emphasised that such acts aren’t applicable to them because Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, while these laws technically apply only to Indian currency.

In a separate case, the Delhi Police had arrested Bitmineplus founders for allegedly duping 5,000 people through a Bitcoin-based scam. Interestingly, the duo from Sonipat had claimed to have drawn inspiration from Bhardwaj’s firm GainBitcoin.

A FactorDaily report published in August last year outlined the association among Gurugram-based Darwin Labs, Bhardwaj and GBMiners. The company’s blockchain-focused accelerator – Satoshi Labs had secured Series A round by Bhardwaj and GBMiners.

However, Baghla had clarified that his company denounced the funding as the co-founders realized that accepting Bhardwaj funding is not in the best interest of the accelerator.

“It is our lack of understanding of the subject that led us to work for GBMiners as a software vendor without understanding their source of funds or their business model,” mentions Baghla in a blog post quoted by FactorDaily.

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