- ATM did not even have time to go live before it was confiscated
- Police are urging the public not to be lured in by promises of high returns on crypto
- More arrests are likely to follow, say police
Remanded to police custody
Harish was arrested on Tuesday, and hauled before a magistrate who remanded him to police custody for seven days.
In addition to the Bitcoin ATM itself, police also confiscated two laptops, a phone, eight credit and debit cards and approximately $2,500 in cash.
Unocoin’s co-founders had argued that it was legal for Indians to own, sell and buy Bitcoin. Harish’s fellow cofounder Sathvik Viswanath said specifically:
“We got a lot of bad press after the finance minister announced a ban in February 2018. The minister’s statement was clear: Cryptocurrencies are not legal tender in India. He did not say ‘illegal tender’. There’s a huge difference. It means you bear the risk of your investment and there’s no regulation for the industry.”
Police says that Unocoin did not have permission to operate the ATM, and has urged the public not to be lured in by promises of fantastical returns that may never materialize. They also say that the arrest of Harish is not likely to be the last one connected to this issue.
The ATM had not yet been activated when it was seized. According to Unocoin, the launch had been delayed and the ATM had to be moved after mall management on the original location were worried due to alarmist media reports.
India clamping down
News of the failed ATM venture come on the back of reports that crypto trade is drying up in India. With the high rate of fraud in ICOs, as well as a long standing (and to some degree justified, historically) association of crypto with crime, India has chosen to very heavily restrict the young space.
Seemingly in an attempt to curb enthusiasm for crypto, the Reserve Bank of India even went so far as to deny the existence of their own research arm into blockchain and crypto usecases.