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A cryptocurrency exchange had $3.5 million stolen — and thinks its security chief ran off with the money

  • Indian exchange Coinsecure has lost over $3.5 million and is blaming its head of security.
  • The company claimed its CSO Amitabh Saxena was extracting a cryptocurrency known as bitcoin gold in order to distribute it to customers, but the funds were lost in the process.
  • Coinsecure blamed him for stealing the bitcoin.
Ethereum and Bitcoin
Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Indian cryptocurrency exchange Coinsecure has lost over $3.5 million and is blaming its head of security.

In a message posted to its website Thursday, the company said that its Chief Security Officer (CSO) Amitabh Saxena was extracting a cryptocurrency known as bitcoin gold in order to distribute it to customers. But Coinsecure claimed the funds were lost in the process.

Director Mohit Kalra has sent a letter to Indian authorities about the incident. In the document posted on the company's website, Kalra said that 438.318 bitcoin have gone missing. This equates to just over $3.5 million at Friday's bitcoin price.

Users' funds were kept in a secure bitcoin wallet and the private keys were kept by Saxena and Kalra. Private keys are essentially required to send cryptocurrency out of a storage wallet. Having the private key allows you to move money.

"As the private keys are kept with Dr Amitabh Saxena, we feel that he is making a false story to divert our attention and he might have a role to play in this entire incident," the letter written by Kalra said.

"The incident reported by Dr Amitabh Saxena does not seem convincing to us. Dr Amitabh Saxena also has an Indian passport and he might fly out of the country soon. Therefore, his passport should be seized so he cannot fly out of the country."

CNBC has emailed the Cyber Crime Cell department of the Delhi police department, where the letter was allegedly sent to, in order to confirm if it is real. There has been no response as of yet.

Coinsecure said it is trying to recover the lost funds, but it will reimburse customers from the company's personal funds. CNBC has reached out to the company to ask when this process might begin and has yet to receive a response. CNBC also asked if the company has had contact with Saxena, but a spokesperson pointed to the statement on Coinsecure's website.

The loss of funds marks one of the first major issues on an Indian cryptocurrency exchange.

Delhi's police department warns against people getting involved in cryptocurrencies because of the "absence of legal framework," according to its website.

"These currencies are normally used by criminals operating on the dark web or the hidden web. Legal, bonafide businesses do not normally use bitcoins. Therefore any request for business transaction in bitcoins should raise suspicious and should be avoided," the police department said.

India's central bank recently banned regulated financial institutions in the country from dealing with cryptocurrencies.

Coinsecure is not the only exchange in the world to suffer problems like this. The most recent high-profile case happened in Japan, where Coincheck had over $500 million worth of cryptocurrency stolen.