The Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of Odisha police has unearthed a pan-India cryptocurrency-based Ponzi scam worth more than Rs 1000 crore, a police official said on Monday.
According to the Inspector-General of Police, EOW Odisha Jayanarayan Pankaj, the EOW arrested the head of STA Crypto Token, namely Gurtej Sigh Sidhu (40), from Sri-Ganganagar, Rajasthan, and its Odisha unit head Nirod Das.
Sidhu is a native of Faridkot, Punjab, and Nirod belongs to the Bhadrak district of Odisha.
The EOW official said that Sidhu was frequently changing his location in places like Goa, Lonavala, Mumbai, Delhi, Faridkot, Bhatinda, Hanumangadh and Sri Ganganagar.
A team of EOW led by DSP Sasmita Sahoo tracked his movement and was finally able to arrest him.
Acting on an intelligence input that a cryptocurrency-based Ponzi scam was being run in Odisha, especially in Bhadrak, Balasore, Bhubaneswar, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Kendrapada and Keonjhar districts, the EOW conducted an inquiry, he further said.
During the inquiry, it was found that STA through some up-line members was very active in these districts and they were using various propaganda tools to persuade people to join this scheme and earn huge money in a very short time, added the official.
He also said that the members had started using the STA Token as legal tender in their day-to-day business. It is estimated that more than 10,000 people from Odisha have already been members of this scheme.
This Ponzi scheme has more than 2 lakh members (Pan India) mainly in the states like Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Assam, the official informed.
STA (Solar Techno Alliance) was launched in September 2021.
The official stated that the STA on its website and social media accounts claims to be a "one-stop Solar Technologies service that enables users to order anything they like from the nearest farmers in the shortest amount of time using blockchain technology".
But during the investigation, it was noticed that-
STA is not authorized by RBI or any other authorities to collect deposits, it runs a huge Ponzi (MLM/ Pyramid) scheme in the garb of Crypto Token. It uses socially popular terms like green energy, solar technology, etc. to mask its Crypto-Ponzi scam, said the official.
The STA website is hosted from Iceland but its business/activity is targeted/ limited to India. It is headed by one David Gez a young Hungarian (Europe) national who has visited India multiple times, he added.
Gurtej Singh Sidhu is said to have reached the top level of STA's Pyramid structure (Kohinoor leadership in STA language) and he heads/runs the scheme/ scam in India. He also claims to be a Cryptocurrency expert, MLM Guru, Life coach and motivational speaker, he stated.
Both David Gej and Gurtej Sidhu have travelled to many places in India including Odisha and have attended various STA Programs.
The STA conducts several publicity programs at various places to spread its membership. They use fancy hotels, motivational speakers, music, lunch/dinner, etc. in such meetings to brainwash future members.
The official said they also run several YouTube channels for publicity and tutoring the new members. Members are promised that they will earn $20 to $3000 per day if they join this scheme and add more members under them.
Members get bonuses and various royalties for adding new members. Its leadership is named Pearl, Ruby, Emerald, Topaz, Diamond, Pink Diamond, Blue Diamond, Black Diamond, The Hope Diamond and Koh-I- Noor depending on the number of down-line members under them and STA coin holdings, he added.
Like any other MLM/Ponzi scheme, members initially do get some monetary benefits which tempt them to add more and more members under them.
Transactions (credit and debit) of more than Rs 30 crore were noticed in the bank account of Nirod Das, Odisha head of STA. Also, there is a huge cash deposit in his accounts which indicates that lots of black money is routed/ parked in this scam. All the accounts have been frozen.
The total money involved (Pan India) in STA is estimated to be more than Rs 1000 Crores.
Last week STA had a grand celebration in a luxurious star hotel/ banquet hall in Goa.
More than one thousand up-line members including many from Odisha attended this meeting. Film star Govinda was the chief guest of this meeting/celebration. Govinda also released some videos promoting/endorsing STA.
The EOW estimated that more than Rs 1000 crore was involved (Pan India) in the scam.
As per the official, an advisory has been issued to the general public stating that, all are advised not to invest their hard-earned money in such MLM/Ponzi schemes which show dreams of becoming a millionaire in an unrealistically short time.
It has also advised investors and film stars or celebrities to check the credentials of the company/organization before investing or promoting such schemes, said the official.
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