In a major development, the Income Tax Department today conducted survey operations at major Bitcoin exchanges across the country on suspicion of alleged tax evasion even as Bitcoin has been touching new highs fuelling investor interest. They said various teams of the sleuths of the department under the command of the Bengaluru investigation wing, today visited the premises of nine such exchanges in the country including in Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi and Gurugram, since early morning. The survey, under section 133A of the Income Tax Act, is being conducted for "gathering evidence for establishing the identity of investors and traders, transaction undertaken by them, identity of counterparties, related bank accounts used, among others," they said. The survey teams, sources said, are armed with various financial data and inputs about the working of these exchanges and this is the first big action against them in the country. Bitcoin, a virtual currency, is not regulated in the country and its circulation has been a cause of concern among central bankers the world over for quite a while now. The Reserve Bank of India has also cautioned users, holders and traders of virtual currencies, including bitcoins. In March, the Union finance ministry had constituted an Inter-Disciplinary Committee to take stock of the present status of VCs both in India and globally and suggest measures for dealing with such currencies. Earlier this month, the Reserve Bank had warned the public of the risks of virtual currencies (VCs). Citing its earlier warnings on the subject, the central bank said, "in the wake of a significant spurt in the valuation of many VCs and rapid growth in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), RBI reiterates the concerns". It can be noted that the price of a single Bitcoin, which is not regulated by any monetary authority, had skyrocketed to up to USD 11,000 last week in a rally which puzzled watchers. "There is no underlying or backing of any asset for VCs. As such, their value seems to be a matter of speculation. Huge volatility in the value of VCs has been noticed in the recent past. Thus, the users are exposed to potential losses on account of such volatility in value," the central bank had said in a December 24, 2013, note. Bitcoins or other VCs do not yet have a wide acceptance as tender for settling trade transactions. They are minted using algorithms which are based on blockchain technologies, according to experts. Those backing the instrument say no one has been able to crack the code which mints the currency and stress the fact that such instruments are the future of finance in an inter-connected world. The Reserve Bank has been repeatedly saying since late 2013 that they possess "potential financial, operational, legal, customer protection and security related risks". The apex bank had said that it was studying the sector but emphatically clarified that it is uncomfortable with "non-fiat" cryptocurrencies. "As regards non-fiat cryptocurrencies, I think we are not comfortable," its executive director Sudarshan Sen said an industry summit in September this year.