37-year-old Harish BN was apprehended this week by the cyber crime police unit in Bengaluru India, for reportedly running a Bitcoin ATM without the relevant approvals. Harish is the cofounder of Unocoin, a blockchain based company responsible for setting up India first bitcoin ATM. The ATM had been set up only a week earlier at Bengaluru’s Kempfort mall amid large fanfare before the police registered a case against Harish and arrested him. The Bitcoin ATM excited many crypto enthusiasts in the country and was largely welcome by them in the face of a crypto crackdown in the country by the Reserve bank of India.
A statement by the cyber crime department of the central crime branch (CCB) read “The ATM kiosk installed by Unocoin in Bengaluru’s Kempfort Mall has not taken any permission from the state government and is dealing in cryptocurrency outside the remit of the law. A CCB source further stated that the accused claimed to have been running the kiosk for six months and that the authorities believed he was misleading them. The authorities went to urge people to be wary of dealing in cryptocurrencies as a way to make huge profits while investing money in cryptos.
The police also arrested Harish and seized several gadgets and cash amounting to RS 1.79 lakh. The seized personal valuables belonging to harish included 5 company seals, one cell phone, three credit cards, five debit cards, one passport, two laptops, and one cryptocurrency device. Installed by virtual currency exchange company Unocoin, the ATM installed at Kempfort mall allowed customers to make a deposit and withdraw a minimum of RS 1000. The reserve bank of India had ruled several months ago that the country’s financial institutions associated with it were prohibited from dealing in cryptocurrency. The central bank seconded that pronouncement by stating that crypto did not pass for legal tender. According to Indian authorities, Unocoin had gone against the RBI’s pronouncement by setting up the Bitcoin ATM.
In their defense, Unocoin through another of their cofounders Sathvik Viswanath defended the company’s business model stating that it was perfectly ok and legal for Indians to buy, sell or own cryptos. Sathvik explained that India’s finance minister ban on crypto was very clear. According to Sathvik, the minister stated that cryptos were not legal tender in India, he did not say that cryptos were illegal tender in India which makes a huge difference. Sathvik went on to explain that the statement “cryptocurrencies are not legal tender in India” simply means that dealers in crypto bear there own risk since it is not regulated by the government. Unocoin had plans of installing similar ATMs in Mumbai and Delhi but all that hinges on the determination of the arrest of Harish