Alleged ‘kingpin’ of a 25M rupee Indian crypto scam arrested at Delhi airport

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A 60-year-old man was arrested Thursday at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport for allegedly leading a 25 million rupee ($ 340,000) cryptocurrency scam.

Umesh Verma, a former jeweler and greeting card maker, was detained by the Delhi Police Economic Offenses Wing after arriving from Dubai.

Police claim Verma, along with his son Bharat, convinced hundreds to invest in a program called Pluto Exchange, which offered monthly returns of 20% to 30%.

The system issued a “cryptocurrency” called Coin Zarus in exchange for investments. Shortly after the program launched in November 2017, returns dried up and Verma reportedly fell off the radar and finally reappeared in Dubai in 2018.

Delhi Police filed a case of misappropriation of funds against Verma in September 2020, which led to his arrest on New Year’s Eve.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, Pluto Exchange also launched India’s first cryptocurrency mobile app that promises the ability to buy, sell and store Bitcoin (BTC) with just a cell phone number.

Verma had previously been arrested in December 2017 for independent gold smuggling.

The Indian Supreme Court this year lifted a central bank ban on banks dealing with cryptocurrency firms. However, a recent survey found that most investors in the country still don’t see an easy way to get into crypto assets.