The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Karnataka Police has registered a case against officers from the Central Crime Branch (CCB), its sister unit, for the alleged manipulation of electronic devices seized from associates of hacker Srikrishna Ramesh, also known as Sriki. Srikrishna is accused of purchasing drugs on the darknet markets using cryptocurrency. CID officer K Ravishankar has filed a complaint against unnamed CCB officers who were involved in the 2020 investigation. The complaint includes charges of destruction of documents, criminal conspiracy, cheating by impersonation, and mischief. According to a digital forensics report, the devices were tampered with after their seizure by the police. The manipulation is suspected to have taken place at the CCB office premises between November 9 and December 12, 2020.
Bitcoin-for-Drugs Case and Uncovering of Cybercrimes
In February 2022, the CCB filed a chargesheet in the Bitcoin-for-drugs case under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985. The chargesheet implicated Srikrishna and ten other individuals, including a police head constable. This case eventually led to the discovery of various cybercrimes connected to Srikrishna, including a Rs 11.5 crore heist from the Karnataka e-governance cell in 2019. The investigation began with the arrest of engineer Sujay M on November 4, 2020. Sujay was part of a group engaged in procuring drugs online. His arrest subsequently led the CCB to apprehend Sunish Hegde, Hemanth Mudappa, and Prasidh Shetty, who sought refuge in Goa with the assistance of Darshan Kumar Lamani, the son of a Congress MLA. Among the accused, police head constable Prabhakar A J allegedly provided the gang with information while they were on the run. Other individuals involved in the case include Mohan Barki, Pankaj Kothari, and Ashis Bheemsen.
Srikrishna's Involvement and Alleged Political Connections
Srikrishna, accused of using his accountant's services to purchase drugs on the darknet, confessed to being involved in hacking international sites and virtual crypto exchanges. He was also linked to the hacking of the Karnataka e-governance cell and several poker gaming sites. Srikrishna had associations with the offspring of politicians from various political parties in the state. While he had faced a criminal case prior to his hacking activities, his true identity as a hacker emerged after his arrest in the Bitcoin-for-drugs case in November 2020. The handling of cases involving Srikrishna raised allegations of corruption against the Congress party during the tenure of the BJP. The Congress party suggested that the gang paid cryptocurrency bribes to high-ranking officials to avoid legal repercussions. Since the Congress party returned to power, a special investigation team has been formed within the CID to reassess the cases. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed concerns regarding the potential involvement of influential politicians and suggested that investigating officers were attempting to protect them by closing the case.