Odisha EOW unearths country’s biggest crypto-ponzi scam; STA’s India head among 2 arrested

Bhubaneswar: The Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of Odisha Crime Branch unearthed the country’s biggest Crypto-Ponzi scam, with the arrest of two accused persons including India head of one cryptocurrency-based Ponzi firm.

Gurtej Sigh Sidhu (40), the India head of “STA Crypto token”, was arrested from Sri-Ganganagar, Rajasthan. He is a native of
Faridkot, Punjab.

Following the arrest, he was produced before a local court in Sri Ganganagar. The court granted 7-day transit remand to Odisha EOW to bring the accused to Odisha. He will be produced before OPID Court in Cuttack today.

Police alleged that Sidhu was frequently changing his location in places like Goa, Lonavala, Mumbai, Delhi, Faridkot, Bhatinda, Hanumangadh, and Sri Ganganagar. An EOW team led by DSP Sasmita Sahoo was tracking his movement in different locations.

Besides, the EOW arrested another accused identified as Nirod Das of Bhadrak district. He was the Odisha head of STA Crypto token.

The duo has been booked under sections 420/467/468/471/120-B of IPC and sections 4/5/6 of the PCMS Act.

EOW stated that the total money involved (Pan India) in STA is estimated to be more than Rs 1000 Crore. Even film stars like Govinda had also endorsed the scheme.

The crypto currency based ponzi scheme was active in Odisha especially in Bhadrak, Balasore, Bhubaneswar, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Kendrapara and Keonjhar districts following which the EOW conducted an inquiry. During investigation, it was found that the company with help of its members were using various propaganda tools to persuade people to join the scheme alluring them of high returns in a very short time.

It was found that members have started using the STA token like a legal tender in their day to day business. It is estimated that more than 10,000 people from Odisha have already been members of this scheme. This scheme/scam has more than 2 lakh members (Pan India) mainly in the states like Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Assam.

The STA (Solar Techno Alliance) was launched in September 2021. In its website & social media accounts it claims to be a “one stop Solar Technologies service that enables users to order anything they like from the nearest farmers in shortest amount of time using block chain technology”.

During investigation it was noticed that the company was not authorized by RBI or any other authorities to collect deposits. It runs a huge Ponzi (MLM/Pyramid) scheme in the garb of Crypto Token. The company STA uses the socially popular terms like green energy, solar technology etc. to mask its Crypto-Ponzi scam.

The EOW found that the STA is headed by one David Gez, a young Hungarian (Europe) national, who has visited India multiple times. Gurtej Singh Sidhu is said to have reached the top level of STA’s Pyramid structure (Kohinnor leadership in STA language) and he heads/runs the scheme/ scam in India. He also claims to be a Crypto currency expert, MLM Guru, Life coach and a motivational speaker.

Both David Gej and Gurtej Sidhu had allegedly travelled to many places in India including Odisha and attended various STA Programmes.

The probe revealed that STA used to conduct several publicity programs at various places to spread its membership. They use fancy hotels, motivational speakers, music, lunch/dinner etc. in such meetings to brainwash future members. They also run several YouTube channels for publicity and tutoring the new members. The members are promised that they will earn $20 to $3000 per day if they join this scheme and add more members under them. Members get bonus and various royalties for adding new members. Its leaderships are named like Pearl, Ruby, Emerald, Topaz, Diamond, Pink Diamond, Blue diamond, Black Diamond, The Hope Diamond and Koh-INoor depending on the number of down-line members under them and STA coin holdings.

Like any other MLM/Ponzi scheme, members initially do get some monetary benefits which tempt them to add more and more members under them.

Nirod Das, the Odisha head of STA came under scanner of EOW, after the team traced transactions of more than Rs 30 crore in his bank account and found huge cash deposits in his accounts indicating huge amount of black money was routed in this scam.

The EOW alleged that Sidhu and David were living a luxury life having expensive cars, fancy clothes, surrounded by bouncers.

Last week the STA had hosted a grand celebration in a luxury star hotel/ banquet hall in Goa where more than 1000 up-line members including many from Odisha attended the event. Bollywood actor Govinda was the chief guest of the programme. The actor-turned-politician had Govinda also released some video endorsing STA.

In this regard, the EOW issued an advisory for celebrities asking to check credentials of the party/company/organization
before endorsing/ promoting such scheme/programme.

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