FBI Agent Confirms 130 Crypto-Related Investigations

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is currently running 130 different cryptocurrency-related investigations, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Kyle Armstrong told the Crypto Evolved conference in New York that the agency is investigating a variety of crimes, including human trafficking, drug transactions, kidnapping and ransomware, which have a cryptocurrency component, according to Bloomberg.

Further, there has recently been an uptick in cases involving cryptocurrencies, he said, citing opioids as one area where the bureau needs to focus on. Roughly 10 percent of drug users worldwide purchase drugs online in illegal digital marketplaces.

Some parts of the U.S. have also seen an increase in extortion schemes, where the perpetrators wish to use cryptocurrencies.

That being said, these «threat-tagged» investigations only make up a «small sliver» of the thousands of cases the agency has, he said.

And unlike crimes involving cash, Armstrong said the blockchain's immutability makes it easier to track transactions. On the flip side, cryptocurrencies' anonymity or pseudonymity make it more difficult to properly investigate a crime.

Police Officers Charged in $1.3 Million Bitcoin Extortion Scheme

The Crime Investigation Department (CID) in the Indian state of Gujurat has accused 10 police officers of kidnapping, attempted extortion and corruption after they allegedly abducted a businessman and forced him to hand over 200 bitcoins.

Gujurat's CID branch filed a First Information Report — the initial step in conducting a police inquiry in India — against 10 officials and a civilian «fixer» on Sunday, the Times of India reported. The accused include nine constables and a local town's police inspector, whose name is reportedly Anant Patel.

The police officials are accused of kidnapping local residents Shailesh Bhatt, Kirit Paladiya and a driver referred to as Mahipal, taking them to a farmhouse, beating them and forcing them to transfer the bitcoins, according to a separate report from the Ahmedabad Mirror. The amount involved is equal to roughly $1.3 million at current prices.

The Mirror further reported that Bhatt was forced to pay another third party to retrieve his bitcoins.

However, director-general of police Ashish Bhatia said an initial probe could not verify that the 200 bitcoins were actually transferred from Bhatt to Patel, and police would examine both citizens' wallets for proof, according to the Times.

He added:

«In his application, Shailesh Bhatt had mentioned the transfer of 200 Bitcoins worth Rs 12 crore ($1.8 million) from the digital wallet of his business partner, Kirit Paladiya. Another Rs 32 crore ($5 million) were allegedly paid for their release from a farmhouse. Later, Rs 78.5 lakh ($121,000) were allegedly paid to get the Bitcoins back. All these transactions mentioned in the application could not be proven.»

A Special Investigative Team is being formed to fully investigate the matter, Bhatia said. So far three of the constables have been arrested, and the remaining six, as well as Patel, are on the run, according to News18.com.