Blackmoney SIT reviews cryptocurrencies; directs clampdown

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NEW DELHI: The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money has asked probe agencies to check and curb the use of cryptocurrencies as it reviewed their operation and circulation in India and links to shady offshore transactions.
Officials said the SIT recently held a meeting in New Delhi during which it was briefed about the overall scenario of the operations of this virtual currency in India.
The SIT, official sources said, called cryprocurrencies like bitcoins “illegal” and asked probe agencies such as the Income Tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to detect and stop their usage and check transactions being done over the Internet, including those with cross-border ramifications.
The panel, they said, would also prepare a report that would be submitted to the government in sometime.
“The government is the final authority to frame rules and law to regulate these virtual currencies and the SIT would provide its report to it on the subject,” a senior official said.
During the meeting, the NCB informed the SIT that about four cryptocurrency-fuelled drugs smuggling transactions have been unearthed in India in the last over two years time while the tax department informed the panel about the searches it conducted on bitcoin exchanges across the country last year.
A reported prepared by the banking regulator –the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) — was also taken up during the meeting, they said.
India’s Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, in his speech on February 1, had said that cryptocurrencies were not legal and affirmed to eliminate their usage.
The RBI, in the past, has come out with three specific warnings to discourage public from investing in the virtual currencies.
A government of India-appointed panel constituted to study the subject and suggest measures to tackle it had submitted its report to the finance ministry early this year.
The Supreme Court-appointed SIT on black money was notified by the government in 2014 and is headed by Justice (retd) M B Shah and has multiple central probe, enforcement and regulatory agencies as its member.

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