A Bunty and Babli-style crime played out in a nondescript Uttar Pradesh town recently. Only there was no Babli to help this Bunty. Sandeep Chaturvedi, alias Bunty, a notorious criminal who has cancer and is reportedly mentally unstable, was arrested on Wednesday on the charge of looting Bitcoins worth about Rs 25 lakh from a local businessman at gunpoint. The crime was committed on April 6.
Superintendent of police of Uttar Pradesh’s Auraiya district Sanjiv Tyagi likened the crime to 2004 Hollywood horror movie Saw. “Aapne Saw film dekhi hai?” he asked one of the reporters who wrote this story, while sharing the details of the case. He said much like the cancer-stricken fanatical antagonist in Saw, Bunty has lost his mind and taken to harassing people and committing crimes.
Auraiya SP Sanjiv Tyagi said much like the cancer-stricken fanatical antagonist in Saw, Bunty has lost his mind and taken to committing crimes. He has 30-31 cases against him, including assault and murder charges
The SP informed that Bunty, in his early 40s, has 30-31 cases against him. The list of his crimes includes assault and murder charges.
A few months ago, however, he decided to commit a crime of a different kind — he decided to rob Bitcoins from a local trader.
Bitcoin crime meets Bharat
His victim, Rajesh Kumar Nishad, also hails from Auraiya town, but has been living in Agra for the past eight years. Nishad, 27, told FactorDaily that he had started the Bitcoin business a couple of years ago with Rs 50,000, buying and selling Bitcoins on Zebpay. He quickly started rolling in profits and invested his mother’s and family’s savings as well. He said he was making good profits until Bunty robbed him of all his Bitcoins.
In January, a mutual acquaintance introduced Nishad to Bunty. Nishad had no idea about Bunty’s criminal antecedents or his mental instability. On the evening of April 6, Bunty requested Nishad to explain the concept of Bitcoins to him. The unsuspecting businessman went over to Bunty’s home, and was showing him how Bitcoin trading works on his smartphone when Bunty grabbed his phone.
Bunty bragged to Nishad that he has a long list of cases against him, including murder charges, and the police wouldn’t be able to do anything
“Iski neeyat kharaab ho gayi. Isne mere upar revolver laga diya aur bola ki yeh mere account mein transfer kar de nahi toh goli maar doonga main.” (His intent was wrong. He pointed a gun at me and asked me to transfer my Bitcoins to his account or he would shoot me.)
Nishad told FactorDaily that Bunty showed him video clips of him beating up, stripping and assaulting people and intimidated him into sharing the password of his Bitcoin account. Bunty bragged to Nishad that he has a long list of cases against him, including murder charges, and the police wouldn’t be able to do anything.
Fearing for his life, Nishad acquiesced to his demands and transferred all his Bitcoins to Bunty’s account. Nishad had earlier told Bunty that his mother too has a Bitcoin account, and Bunty got him to call his mother and get her password as well, so he could transfer the Bitcoins from her account to his.
Nishad said Bunty merely needed the passwords, as he already knew how to execute the transfers. He even had a Zebpay account ready for the purpose
Nishad said Bunty merely needed the passwords, as he already knew how to execute the transfers. He even had a Zebpay account ready for the purpose. (Zebpay is a Bitcoin exchange and wallet. While there are other such exchanges as well, Nishad uses Zebpay, so Bunty had also registered for an account on the platform.)
He said days after the incident, he pleaded with Bunty to have mercy on him, but to no avail. Nishad quoted Bunty as replying to him: “Mere upar in cheezon ka koi farak nahi padta. Mera toh yahi kaam hai. Main toh isi cheez ka visheshagya hoon. Tum Bitcoin ke visheshagya ho, main toh isi cheez ka visheshagya hoon.” (This pleading has no effect on me. This is what I do. This is what I specialise in. You’re a Bitcoin specialist, I’m a specialist in this.)
While Nishad reported the matter to the police shortly after he was robbed, it was only on May 31 that the police finally registered a case. All through April and May, they were educating themselves about the digital currency to be able to handle the unusual crime. Nishad showed them his income tax receipts, screenshots of his cryptocurrency-related deals and transaction codes. The police registered a case once they had understood the Bitcoin trade and were convinced that Nishad had indeed been robbed.
Nishad showed them his income tax receipts, screenshots of his cryptocurrency-related deals and transaction codes. The police registered a case once they had understood the Bitcoin trade and were convinced that Nishad had indeed been robbed
According to Nishad, the police were still reluctant to act against his perpetrator, citing the number of cases against him and his violent behaviour. He said earlier this month, Bunty robbed a young man of his motorcycle in broad daylight. The youth told Nishad about the incident and the two went to meet the SP. This meeting proved fruitful as the SP promptly ordered Bunty’s arrest, who was finally nabbed on Wednesday.
As India gets the hang of Bitcoins, crimes involving the cryptocurrency are on the rise. About three weeks ago, Patiala Police arrested a gang that had kidnapped a trader and sought ransom in Bitcoins. The interrogation revealed that the gang’s mastermind had been duped in a Bitcoin deal and when he took the matter to police, he was told Bitcoins are untraceable. This inspired him to seek a ransom that would leave no trail.
Lead visual: Nikhil Raj
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The ‘Tech Meets Bharat’ series brings to you stories on how technology is impacting and changing lives in hinterland India.
Saurabh Sharma is a Lucknow-based independent journalist and Rahul Tiwari is an Auraiyaa, UP-based freelance writer. Both are members of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.