Srikrishna, the 25-year-old hacker at the centre of a bitcoin controversy that has put the Basavaraj Bommai-led Karnataka government on the defensive, was arrested by the Bangalore police on Saturday (October 6) for brawling. Srikrishna, also known as Sriki, and his businessman-friend had got into a quarrel with the staff of a hotel in east Bengaluru where he had been staying for the past month, police said.
According to police, the two men were picked up on a complaint of trespassing and wrongful restraint given by the hotel’s duty manager. The incident reportedly took place when the friend, Vishnu, came to meet Srikrishna.
“They were arrested and subjected to medical examination. Both tested positive for drugs, so we have taken up a separate case under the NDPS Act. Further questioning is underway,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) SD Sharanappa told The Federal.
Srikrishna’s arrest comes at a time when the opposition has been ratcheting up the pressure on the Karnataka government over a bitcoin case he has been linked with.
In November 2020, the 25-year-old had been arrested by the Bangalore police in a case relating to narcotics bought via the darknet – following the arrest, the police investigation had unearthed previous attempts allegedly made by him to hack into a bitcoin exchange and online gaming portals.
Srikrishna is also being investigated by the Karnataka CID in a 2019 case relating to hacking into and siphoning off ₹11.55 crore from the bank account of the e-procurement cell of the state’s Centre for e-Governance. The Enforcement Directorate is also investigating the case.
Last month, the cases against Srikrishna snowballed into a political controversy with Congress leader Siddaramaiah alleging the involvement of “influential politicians” in these cases. “There is information about the involvement of influential politicians of Karnataka in Drugs & Bitcoin scam. It is concerning that the investigating officers are trying to close the case to help those politicians,” Siddaramaiah tweeted on October 27.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had shot back, pointing out that these cases had been referred to the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI’s Interpol branch. Bommai, had, in turn, accused the Congress of allowing Srikrishna to get away in a previous case in 2018 when the party was in power in Karnataka.
Since then, however, Srikrishna’s hacking exploits have made headlines – reports, citing the charge-sheets against him, say he has claimed access to 5,000 bitcoins via hacking.
In the case related to the e-procurement portal hacking where Earnest Money Deposit funds were siphoned off, the ED had initiated an investigation into money laundering.
The money laundering probe revealed that Srikrishna had hacked the e-governance portal and diverted funds to the tune of ₹10.5 crore and ₹1.05 crore to the bank accounts of an NGO in Nagpur and a proprietorship company in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr, the agency had said in a press statement in August.