windows jail and sun rays 3d image. Image: iStock
Image: iStock

A 60-year-old air passenger was arrested in Delhi on New Year’s Eve for allegedly running a 25 million rupee ($340,000) crypto scam.

Umesh Verma, a former jeweler and greeting card maker, was held by the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi police at Indira Gandhi International Airport after flying in from Dubai, NDTV reports.

According to police, Verma and his son Bharat convinced hundreds of victims to invest in a scheme called Pluto Exchange, which offered monthly returns of 20% to 30%.

It issued customers a “cryptocurrency” called Coin Zarus in exchange for investments. However, Verma disappeared soon after it was rolled out in November 2017 and customers stopped receiving their interest. He later resurfaced in Dubai in 2018, where he launched an essential commodities business.

Delhi police charged Verma with misappropriation of funds in September 2020, leading to his arrest on Thursday night.

Verma is on police remand for three days, according to a statement by OP Mishra, the Joint Commissioner of Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing.  

Pluto Exchange also launched India’s first mobile application for buying, selling, storing and spending bitcoin via a phone number, Hindustan Times reports.

The Indian Supreme Court last year lifted a central bank ban on banks doing business with crypto outfits, but it still has been difficult for people to invest.

The good news is that crypto is moving into the mainstream as an increasing number of banks offer crypto services. For example, as Asia Times reported earlier this week, Unicas, a joint venture between Indian online crypto banking platform Cashaa and United Multistate Credit Co-op Society, is establishing physical crypto bank branches.

Read: Indian banks allow customers to trade cryptos