2 Indian brothers plead not guilty in crypto insider trading scheme in US

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Washington– Ishan Wahi, 32, a former product manager at cryptocurrency platform Coinbase Global, along with his brother Nikhil Wahi, 26, have pleaded not guilty to federal charges of insider trading, the media reported.

The lawyer representing Ishan Wahi said that the charges against him should be “dismissed” as insider trading needs to involve securities or commodities and this case did not, according to reports.

Last month, the US authorities charged the brothers and their Indian-American friend Sameer Ramani, 33, of Houston with wire fraud conspiracy by using confidential information from crypto exchange Coinbase and made $1.5 million in illicit money.

The Wahi brothers were arrested in Seattle, Washington State, where they were living, and presented in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Ramani remains at large. Ishan, Nikhil and Ramani stare at a maximum sentence of 20 years each.

Ishan worked at Coinbase as a product manager assigned to a Coinbase asset listing team starting in October 2020.

He was involved in the highly confidential process of listing crypto assets on Coinbase’s exchanges and had detailed and advanced knowledge of which crypto assets Coinbase was planning to list and the timing of public announcements about those crypto asset listings.

According to the US authorities, on at least 14 occasions, Ishan knew in advance both that Coinbase planned to list particular crypto assets and the timing of its public announcements of those asset listings.

He misappropriated that Coinbase confidential information by tipping either his brother, Nikhil, or Ramani, “so that they could place profitable trades in those crypto assets in advance of Coinbase’s public listing announcements”.

The defendants made illegal trades in at least 25 different crypto assets and realised ill-gotten gains totalling approximately $1.5 million.

To conceal their purchases of crypto assets in advance of Coinbase listing announcements, Nikhil and Ramani used accounts at centralised exchanges held in the names of others, and transferred funds, crypto assets, and proceeds of their scheme through multiple anonymous Ethereum blockchain wallets.

“Nikhil and Ramani also regularly created and used new Ethereum blockchain wallets without any prior transaction history in order to further conceal their involvement in the scheme,” said the Justice Department.

Coinbase publicly replied on Twitter, saying that any Coinbase employee who leaked confidential company information would be “immediately terminated and referred to relevant authorities (potentially for criminal prosecution).” (IANS)

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