A former manager at Coinbase Global charged with the first insider trading case involving cryptocurrency bought a one-way plane ticket to India after a company security director summoned him to a meeting, US prosecutors said.
Ishan Wahi, the former product manager at the crypto exchange, and his brother Nikhil Wahi were arrested on Thursday in Seattle.
A third defendant, their friend Sameer Ramani, remains at large. They also face related US Securities and Exchange Commission civil charges.
In a statement, lawyers for Ishan Wahi, 32, said he is “innocent of all wrongdoing and intends to defend himself vigorously.”
Prosecutors said Ishan Wahi shared confidential information about forthcoming announcements of new crypto assets that Coinbase would allow users to trade through its exchange.
They also said Ishan Wahi bought a one-way plane ticket to India after a Coinbase security director summoned him to the company’s Seattle office for a meeting. Law enforcement barred him from boarding the May 16 flight, prosecutors said.
Defendant Ordered to Surrender Passports
At Ishan Wahi’s initial appearance in Seattle federal court, bail was set at $1 million and he was ordered to surrender his passports.
Prosecutors did not demand that he be detained despite his alleged attempt to flee. His next federal court appearance is on August 2 in Manhattan.
In the related civil insider trading charges, the SEC alleged that Nikhil Wahi, 26, and Ramani, 33, purchased and sold at least 25 crypto assets for a profit, nine of which the agency said it had identified as securities.
Wahi and Ramani allegedly used ethereum blockchain wallets to acquire the assets and traded at least 14 times before Coinbase’s announcements from June 2021 and April 2022, generating at least $1.5 million of illicit gains, prosecutors said.
“Fraud is fraud is fraud, whether it occurs on the blockchain or on Wall Street,” Damian Williams, US attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell
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