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Bollywood Influencer Becomes Target of Crypto Ponzi Scheme Probe

3 mins
Updated by Michael Washburn
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In Brief

  • More than a month after police in Odisha began making arrests over a crypto scam, attention focuses on one of its endorsers.
  • Govinda, a Bollywood star, appeared in videos promoting the Solar Techno Alliance's crypto token, which was a huge hit.
  • The actor's agent steadfastly claims he did nothing wrong and had no involvement in the devastating crypto Ponzi scheme.
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The latest celebrity influencer to come under scrutiny for promoting an alleged crypto Ponzi scheme is the popular Bollywood actor Govinda.

The actor is the target of a probe by the Odisha Economic Offenses Wing (EOW), which seeks to learn more about the exact nature of Govinda’s role as a promoter for Solar Techno Alliance, according to multiple news reports.

Bollywood Star Appeared in Ads for a Crypto Ponzi Scheme

The Solar Techno Alliance scam came to the world’s attention in August, as police in the state of Odisha began making arrests. Now, Bollywood legend Govinda faces suspicion for having appeared in ads that Solar Techno Alliance produced.

Their aim was to lure people to park their money in its crypto investment platform. Besides the ads, police have questions about an event that the firm held in Goa in July.

According to a Times of India report on Monday, these promotions were a huge hit. More than 10,000 people in dozens of cities and states across India made investments. In all, Solar Techno brought in some 30 crore, or more than $320 million.

But the venture turned out to be a crypto Ponzi scheme. Its managers allegedly did as they pleased with the funds taken from unsophisticated investors who did not know any better.

India’s police were swift to make arrests. Including Nirod Das and Gurtej Singh Sidhu, named as local office heads of the company, on August 7. Authorities have also put out a lookout notice for David Gez, the head of Solar Techno Alliance.

In addition to going after the heads of the crypto Ponzi scheme, they arrested investment adviser Ratnakar Palai on August 16 for alleged ties to Sidhu.

But the question looms: how deep did Govinda’s involvement with Solar Techo Alliance run? And, what should authorities do with him?

How Deep Was Govinda’s Role in the Ponzi Scheme?

In the wake of the probe and the arrests, negative publicity has swirled around the Bollywood star. Including reports of a hot temper on set and even an incident where the actor allegedly slapped director Neeraj Vora.

But such reports, even if true, are immaterial to whether lending one’s prestige to a service or product as an influencer and endorser is illegal.

As of this writing, India’s police have not announced plans to do more than question Govinda. Detectives are reportedly on the way to Mumbai.

Meanwhile, Govinda’s manager, Shashi Sinha, denies any tie at all between her client and the cryptocurrency scam. Sinha raises legitimate questions. Namely, about the liability of actors for any problems or deficiencies with the services or products they have accepted payment to endorse.

Crypto Ponzi schemes and other scams were common in India long before the Solar Techno Alliance scam and its Bollywood connection came to light. Source: Chainalysis

Demanding Responsibility on the Part of Influencers

From Govinda’s and Sinha’s point of view, he did nothing more or less than his job. However, regulators in some countries would disagree. Take, for example, France. A country that has wrestled with whether even to allow crypto influencers.

Aware of the power of influencers to set buying priorities, France’s top financial watchdogs earlier this month put out a new training module.

Its purpose? To require all influencers who aspire to a “Responsible Influence Certificate in Financial Advertising” to become familiar with best practices in the promotion of financial products and services.

Those who seek the certificate, and the bona fides it confers, must answer 25 questions and get at least 75% right. And they cannot even apply for the “Responsible Influence” badge without having first obtained a general certificate.

As the probe of Govinda’s activities on behalf of a deeply hurtful scam unfolds, some may wonder. Would Govinda have passed such a test?

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Michael Washburn
Michael Washburn is a New York-based managing editor who joined BeInCrypto in March 2023. Over his career, he written extensively about the corporate legal world and the intersection of finance and law, has produced thousands of articles and features, and has mentored many reporters and researchers finding their way in a fast-changing industry.