Indian brothers, friend charged in first-ever cryptocurrency insider trading case

They made illegal trades in at least 25 different crypto assets, prosecutors say


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Published: Fri 22 Jul 2022, 9:22 AM

Last updated: Fri 22 Jul 2022, 9:24 AM

Two Indian brothers, in the US, and their Indian-American friend, have been charged in the first-ever cryptocurrency insider trading scheme, in which they made illicit profits totalling over a million dollars.

Ishan Wahi, 32, and his brother Nikhil, 26, are citizens of India. The two were in Seattle, while Sameer Ramani, 33, hailed from Houston.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI's New York Field Office announced on Thursday the unsealing of an indictment.

Ramani and the Wahi brothers were charged with wire fraud conspiracy, as well as wire fraud in connection with a scheme to commit insider trading in cryptocurrency assets, by using confidential Coinbase information about crypto assets that were scheduled to be listed on its exchanges.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also announced insider trading charges against the three men.

The Wahi brothers were arrested on Thursday morning in Seattle and will be presented in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. The SEC complaint said that Ramani is currently believed to be in India.

Ramani and Ishan Wahi attended the University of Texas, Austin, together and remain close friends.

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

The charges "are a further reminder that Web3 is not a law-free zone. Just last month, I announced the first-ever insider trading case involving NFTs, and today I announce the first-ever insider trading case involving cryptocurrency markets," explained Damian Williams.

"Our message with these charges is clear: fraud is a fraud, whether it occurs on the blockchain or on Wall Street. And the Southern District of New York will continue to be relentless in bringing fraudsters to justice, wherever we may find them,” he added.

Ishan Wahi is charged with two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud, while Nikhil Wahi and Ramani are charged with one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.


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