Fraud Arrest Finally in India’s Pluto Exchange Case

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In Brief
  • One of India's oldest crypto scam sagas closed with the arrest of Umesh Verma.

  • Verma was allegedly head of the Pluto Exchange scam.

  • The case goes back to the 2017 crypto bull run.

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Umesh Verma, age 60, was wanted as the head of the Pluto Exchange scam.



Indian authorities arrested 60 year-old Umesh Verma as he arrived in India. The move settles one of India’s longest-running cases concerning crypto-currency scams. It hearkens back to the 2017 bull run and technological innovation in India.

Nabbed

Umesh Verma was arrested at Dehli’s Indira Ghandi International Airport after flying in from Dubai. India requested Verma’s extradition in October 2020, following charges in a cryptocurrency scam. Umesh’s son, Bharat, was also involved, but there are no reports that he had been charged in the Pluto Exchange scam.



Fraud in 2017?

When they launched Pluto Exchange in late 2017, the Vermas offered cutting-edge services to crypto-hungry people in India. The bitcoin bubble raised attention and hopes with tremendous gains seemingly overnight, and Pluto Exchange offered monthly returns of 20-30%. Local media emphasized the exchange’s purported Dubai base. 

Pluto Exchange offered its own coin, called Coin Zarus. Moreover, the Vermas offered India its first mobile crypto app. There was some ease of operation as well – users could buy bitcoin with only a phone number. 

For some, the returns and technology were too much to resist. In the end, at least 43 businessmen invested a total of over $270,000 in the scheme. However, coincidence or not, bitcoin crashed, and so did Pluto Exchange. Because investors were encouraged by incentives to bring new people into the organization, the Indian government will look at the matter as a Ponzi scheme. 

Scams in 2020

While the Vermas relied on the hype surrounding the 2017 crypto bubble, in 2020, scammers use fear, and not just Fear Of Missing Out. The development of COVID-19 vaccines is already producing phishing attacks. Security firms CheckPoint and KnowBe4 are telling consumers to beware of suspicious emails regarding vaccines.

Like in 2017, though, a crypto bull run brings out all sorts of invention. Bitcoin hit a real all-time-high on Jan. 2, at over $32,000. However, on the Livecoin exchange in Russia, bitcoin’s already been at over $200,000.

BeInCrypto reported that on Dec. 26, Livecoin was hacked, and the bitcoin price on the exchange manipulated. The hackers raised BTC’s price to $220,000 before shutting down. ETH rose to $6500. Observers suspect an exit scam. Others allege that the exchange had seen price manipulations earlier in the year.

Be careful

In 2019, the Chinese government shut down the PlusToken scheme. In November, 2020, court documents revealed that Beijing confiscated 194,775 BTC, 833,083 ETH, 213,724 USDT, and 6 billion DOGE, among others, in the process.  

BeInCrypto reminds readers that, despite the heady times and multiple ATHs, if it looks too good to be true, then due diligence is required.

Disclaimer

All the information contained on our website is published in good faith and for general information purposes only. Any action the reader takes upon the information found on our website is strictly at their own risk.
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James Hydzik is a finance and technology writer and editor based in Kyiv, Ukraine. He is especially interested in the development of regulation in the face of increasingly rapid technological change. He previously covered the CEE region for Financial Times banking and FDI magazines. An ardent believer in gut renovating eastern Europe one flat at a time, he currently holds more home renovation gear than crypto.

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