The Enforcement Directorate on Monday said it has attached assets of a Kerala-based businessman who allegedly cheated over 900 investors to the tune of Rs 1,200 crore in the name of offering cryptocurrency to them. The action by the federal anti-money laundering agency has been taken against Nishad K and his associates who allegedly lured depositors in the name of launching ‘Morris Coin cryptocurrency’.

A provisional order under the Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) has been issued to attach properties that include “balances in multiple bank accounts of Nishad K and his companies, immovable property including the land of an associate close to Nishad K and Indian Rupee equivalent of cryptocurrencies purchased out of the proceeds of crime by a close associate”. The total value of the attached assets is over Rs 36.72 crore.

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Nishad K, the agency said, through his companies like Long Rich Global, Long Rich Technologies and Morris Trading Solutions collected deposits from investors “in the guise of initial coin offer for the launch of Morris Coin cryptocurrency.”

“Investors were impressed by conducting promotional events in the presence of celebrities, introducing the investors to flashy websites by the provision of e-wallets to each investor via web-based applications,” the ED said in a statement. The amounts so collected by “duping” the investors were siphoned through various companies operated by Nishad K and his associates, it alleged. The ED said deposits taken from the public were illegal and without any statutory permission from any regulatory agencies. “This was a ponzi scheme and investors were lured with the promise of very high return. The money obtained was used for the purchase of immovable properties, various cryptocurrencies, luxury cars and for spending in luxury hotels and resorts,” it said.

Cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, BTC, BNB, YFI, VET, ADA and USDT, totally valued at over Rs 25.82 lakh (Rs 25,82,794), were found and all the cryptocurrencies, purchased out of the proceeds of crime, were “converted” into Indian Rupee and attached by the ED, it said. The ED case was filed after studying multiple Kerala Police FIRs filed against the accused in Malappuram and Kannur districts of the state where it was alleged that “more than 900 investors were cheated to the tune of Rs 1,200 crore” by the accused.