BitConnect boss accused of $2.4bn crypto-Ponzi fraud has disappeared

Where in the world is Carm, sorry, Satish Kumbhani?

Satish Kumbhani, who is accused of scamming people out of $2.4bn in a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme, has disappeared while evading an American watchdog, a court was told this week.

The BitConnect founder fled his home nation of India and went to ground in another country as the US Securities and Exchange Commission sought to serve a civil fraud lawsuit on him regarding the alleged scam, it is claimed.

"In October 2021, the commission learned that Kumbhani has likely relocated from India to an unknown address in a different foreign country," Richard Primoff, general attorney at the SEC, said in a letter [PDF] to US federal district Judge John Koeltl on Monday.

"Since November, the commission has been consulting with that country's financial regulatory authorities in an attempt to locate Kumbhani's address. At present, however, Kumbhani's location remains unknown, and the commission remains unable to state when its efforts to locate him will be successful, if at all."

Primoff said the SEC should be granted more time to try and find Kumbhani, and serve him his notice of the lawsuit, which was filed in New York. Judge Koeltl agreed, and has given the financial watchdog until May 30.

In September, the regulator claimed BitConnect defrauded folks out of billions of dollars by running a Ponzi-like scheme that promised financial returns of up to 40 per cent per month all thanks to its automated crypto-trading bot. 

Instead, people's digital funds were allegedly secretly pocketed by Kumbhani and his associate Glenn Arcaro, who last year pleaded guilty to conspiring to cheat Bitconnect investors. Arcaro faces up to 20 years behind bars. Kumbhani, however, is still at large.

The SEC's action is a civil matter. Last week Kumbhani was indicted by the US Department of Justice on criminal charges related to the alleged scam. The crypto-biz founder is accused of various crimes from conspiracy to committing wire fraud to international money laundering. He faces up to 70 years in prison if convicted.

"As cryptocurrency gains popularity and attracts investors worldwide, alleged fraudsters like Kumbhani are utilizing increasingly complex schemes to defraud investors, oftentimes stealing millions of dollars," said Ryan Korner, a special agent at the IRS Criminal Investigation's Los Angeles Field Office.

"However, make no mistake, our agency will continue our long tradition of following the money, whether physical or digital, to expose criminal schemes and hold the fraudsters accountable for their illegal acts of trickery and deceit."

Last year, the DoJ and the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California started selling off $56m worth of cryptocurrency to liquidate BitConnect's assets. ®

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