India alleges a16z-backed CoinSwitch violated forex laws, searches offices

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India's financial crime-fighting agency conducted searches at multiple premises of the Bengaluru-headquartered CoinSwitch Kuber on Thursday, alleging the crypto exchange startup violated forex laws, four people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The Enforcement Directorate searched the office facilities and residences of some executives and also questioned many, including chief executive Ashish Singhal, two people said, requesting anonymity as the matter is private and sensitive.

The agency believes that the Indian startup acquired shares of over $200 million in violation of local forex laws, a person familiar with the matter said.

"We receive queries from various government agencies. Our approach has always been that of transparency," a CoinSwitch Kuber spokesperson told TechCrunch in a statement. "Crypto is an early stage industry with a lot of potential and we continuously engage with all stakeholders."

The startup, valued at nearly $2 billion and backed by Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia India, declined to elaborate.

The government agency has performed over half a dozen probes into tech firms this year, including Chinese smartphone vendors Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi and seized more than $1 billion of capital that it said firms had evaded in fraudulent tax computations.

The Enforcement Directorate also freezing assets worth over $8 million from WazirX earlier this month, citing suspected violation of foreign exchange rule, and $46 million from the local entity of Vauld for facilitating “crime-derived” proceeds from predatory lending firms.