In a massive action against the online gambling app Mahadev Book money laundering case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday said that it has seized Rs 417 crore after carrying out searches in Kolkata, Bhopal, Mumbai.
In a statement, the financial probe agency said that the ED recently conducted widespread searches against the money laundering networks linked with Mahadev APP in cities like Kolkata, Bhopal, Mumbai, etc., and retrieved large amount of incriminating evidences and has frozen or seized proceeds of crime worth Rs 417 crore.
The agency said that it's probe into the matter has revealed that Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal, who hail from Chhattisgarh's Bhilai, are the main promoters of Mahadev Online Book and are running their operations from Dubai.
It said that Mahadev Online Book is run from a central Head Office in UAE and operates by franchising "Panel or Branches” to their known associates on 70 per cent to 30 per cent profit ratio.
"Large-scale hawala operations are done to siphon off the proceeds of betting to off-shore accounts. Large expenditure in cash is also being done in India for advertising of betting websites to attract new users and franchise (panel) seekers," it said.
Sharing the details of the searches, the ED said that Chandrakar and Uppal created an empire for themselves in the UAE and the sudden and illegal riches were being openly flaunted by them.
"In February 2023, Chandrakar got married at RAK, UAE, and for this marriage ceremony, the promoters of Mahadev APP spent around Rs 200 crore in cash. Private jets were hired to ferry family members from Nagpur to UAE. Celebrities were hired to perform in the marriage. Wedding planners, dancers, decorators, etc., were hired from Mumbai and hawala channels were used to make payments in cash," it alleged.
The ED said that as per the digital evidence gathered by it, "Rs 112 crore was delivered via hawala to an events management company -- R-1 Events Pvt Ltd of Yogesh Popat -- and hotel bookings worth Rs 42 crore were done by paying in cash in AEDs.
It also said that during the searches at the premises of Popat, one Mithilesh and other linked organizers and evidence relating to receipt of Rs 112 crore hawala money was crystallized.
"Subsequently, searches were conducted on the angadias named by Popat and resulted in seizure of unaccounted cash of Rs 2.37 crore," the ED claimed.
The ED further said that many celebrities have been endorsing these betting entities and performing at their functions in return for hefty fees layered through dubious transactions, but ultimately paid from the proceeds of online betting.
ED Searches Bhopal Company Responsible For Ticketing Operations
The agency also carried out searches at the premises of Rapid Travels of Dheeraj Ahuja and Vishal Ahuja at Bhopal.
The ED said that the company was responsible for the entire ticketing operations of the Mahadev APP promoters, family, business associates and even for the celebrities who were endorsing betting websites like fairplay.com, reddyanna APP, Mahadev APP.
"The illicit cash earnings from the betting panels were cleverly deposited by Ahuja brothers with main ticket providers, and the wallet balance was used to book domestic and international tickets. Rapid Travels was involved in making travel arrangements for most events of Mahadev group, including the annual star-studded events organized in UAE in the month of September," it claimed.
The ED said that it successfully identified other major players involved in the money laundering operations of the Mahadev Online Book APP.
"It was found that one Kolkata-based Vikash Chhaparia was handling all the hawala related operations for the Mahadev APP," the agency said.
"ED conducted searches at his known premises and at his associates like Govid Kedia. It was found that with the help of Kedia, Chaparia through his entities -- Perfect Plan Investments LLP, Exim General Trading FZCO and Techpro IT Solutions LLC -- was investing heavily in Indian Stock market by way of Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) route," the agency said.
"Accordingly, cash derivative and other security holdings worth Rs 236.3 crore in the name of entities beneficially owned by Chhaparia have been frozen by ED under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).
The agency also said that assets worth Rs 160 crore in DEMAT holdings of Kedia have also been frozen by ED.
The searches at the premise of Kedia also resulted in seizure of Indian currency of Rs 18 lakh, gold and jewellery valued at Rs 13 crore.
The ED is probing Mahadev Online Book Betting APP which is an umbrella syndicate arranging online platforms for enabling illegal betting websites to enrol new Users, create User IDs and laundering of money through a layered web of benami Bank accounts.
The ED recently arrested Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Chandrabhushan Verma of Chhattisgarh Police, businessman Satish Chandrakar, hawala operators Anil Dammani and Sunil Dammani in the matter.
The ED had also questioned Vinod Verma, the political advisor of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, in connection with a money laundering case related to the online gambling app Mahadev Book.
The ED initiated the investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) based on FIRs registered by Chhattisgarh Police.
FIRs registered by Visakhapatnam Police and other states were also taken into account.