A major Indian think-tank called the Bureau of Police Research and Development [BPRD] has prepared a 64-page first-of-its-kind Standard Operating Procedure outlining Investigation processes/Methodologies for crypto-related cyber crimes. Local sources say the guidelines provide a methodology for investigation as well as seizure and preservation of cryptocurrencies.
Speaking on the issuance, BPRD Director Dr. Karuna Sagar stated,
“As more and more users access the internet and are embracing technology, cyber criminals are looking at crypto-currencies for transactions. With the gaining popularity and awareness amongst the people of India with respect to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ripple, Dogecoin, etc., many have started investing part of their time and money in these virtual currencies.”
One of the guidelines directs the law enforcement agencies to have their own crypto wallets to store seized digital assets. The agencies are required to work with the crypto exchanges to block the wallet or reset the keys to stop the transactions. This is to ensure that the stolen assets are immediately transferred to the official wallet.
The SOP also contains some strict norms like prohibiting conversion of seized cryptocurrency into local currency, warning that it might cause legal repercussions to the department due to the fluctuation in rates of the cryptocurrency in the market.
The detailed SOP aims to bolster Indian authorities’ fight against crypto criminals
In case the crypto wallet is not encrypted, the SOP said, the agencies have the right to complete access, provided proper warrants have been obtained for the seizure of the device. If the bitcoin wallet is encrypted, working with the suspect to give away the passwords is the easiest method of access.
In scenarios such as no possibility of immediate access to the suspect’s wallet or the latter’s refusal to provide a password or encryption key, the device should be switched to airplane mode or placed in a faraday bag to prevent tampering, it added.
At present, there are no national guidelines on cryptocurrency-related cases, due to which Indian enforcement agencies often struggle, particularly in seizures as well as tracking scammers. Although the Indian government has started taxing earnings from crypto transactions at the rate of 30%, India is yet to regulate cryptocurrencies, and investigations in such cases are probed through existing cyber laws.