Mahadev Betting App Case Scam Worth More Than Rs 6,000 Crore

December 14, 2023 | illegal gambling

Authorities in Dubai have detained one of the masterminds behind the scam, Ravi Uppal and will be deported to India soon

New Delhi, India (December 13, 2023) — Ravi Uppal was detained in Dubai after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) asked Interpol to issue a red notice on the case. ED is currently in touch with Dubai authorities to have Uppal deported to India. He is one of the two masterminds behind the Mahadev betting app scam, worth more than Rs 6,000 crore. The ‘Business Standard‘ report the following is everything known about the betting platform, the investigation, arrests made, and how politicians and celebrities got affiliated with it.

What is the Mahadev betting scandal?

An ED investigation uncovered a vast network providing illegal betting in various games operated by Mahadev Online Book. Betting included poker, card games, cricket, badminton and tennis, and even extended to allowing bets on the Indian elections. The platform also offered card games like “Teen Patti”, poker, “Dragon Tiger”, and virtual cricket games, among others. The platform has also been accused of match-fixing, money laundering through cryptocurrency, and rigging games to ensure profits for panel owners and heavy losses for players.
Mahadev Online Book operations not only maintained websites and closed chat groups but also tried to lure people into illegal betting. The ED investigation even led to the questioning of politicians and Bollywood stars in relation to the scam.

Masterminds behind the Mahadev betting app scam

Sourabh Chandrakar, 28, and Ravi Uppal, 43, are considered to be the heart of the operations that have amassed around Rs 6,000 crore through the illegal betting app. Both are originally from Bhilai in Chhattisgarh but have been based in Dubai for nearly two years.
The federal probe agency filed a money laundering charge sheet against both promoters before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur in October. Following this, a red notice was issued by Interpol on ED’s request. The chargesheet also contained the names of 14 accused including the ringleaders.

Arrests so far

The Chhattisgarh Police began its crackdown on the scam in 2021, which led to multiple FIRs, arrests, and seizure of assets before the ED began its own investigation.
In August, the ED arrested four individuals — businessmen brothers Sunil and Anil Dammani, assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Chandra Bhushan Verma, and Satish Chandrakar — from Raipur, Chhattisgarh. These individuals allegedly facilitated illegal fund movements through hawala networks and protected the racket from police action.
The Dammani brothers, who own a jewellery shop, Abhushan Jewelers, and a petrol pump, allegedly facilitated large-scale hawala transactions and earned commissions of Rs 100 per lakh that they moved.
Satish Chandrakar, in collaboration with ASI Verma, managed to evade police raids by running a branch of the app for his personal benefit.
Since the Chhattisgarh Police began its investigation, 75 FIRs have been registered, and 429 accused have been arrested from across India.
Now, one of the ringleaders, Uppal has also been detained. Uppal was allegedly responsible for overlooking the delivery of “liasioning money to the bureaucrats and politicians of Chhattisgarh through Chandrabhushan Verma,” according to an assistant sub-inspector of police.

What politicians were implicated in the scam?

Vinod Verma, a relative of ASI Verma’s and a political advisor to former Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, was named by the accused. Verma called a press conference to publicly deny any involvement in the case.
Ahead of the Chhattisgarh state Assembly elections, ED also alleged that a “cash courier” named Asim Das had claimed to have paid around Rs 508 crore to then CM Baghel. However, Das later claimed that he had been framed as a part of a conspiracy and denied ever delivering money to politicians.

Seizure of luxury goods and bank accounts

As of October 2023, the police had seized 191 laptops, 858 smartphones, betting-related materials, and luxury cars worth about Rs 2.50 crore. The investigation revealed the use of over 3,033 bank accounts in this racket, with around 1,035 bank accounts frozen. The total amount deposited in these accounts is estimated to be about Rs 15.50 crore.
FIRs have also been registered against app operators in other states, such as Andhra Pradesh. However, the Mahadev betting app’s network extends beyond India to the UAE, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan. The ED has frozen and seized assets worth Rs 417 crore in connection with the case and conducted searches across 39 locations in Raipur, Bhopal, Mumbai and Kolkata.

How did celebrities get pulled into the scam?

Bollywood stars Ranbir Kapoor, Kapil Sharma, Huma Qureshi, Hina Khan, and Shraddha Kapoor were all asked to appear before the ED in connection to the Mahadev app case. While Ranbir Kapoor had been accused of receiving payments for promotional activities for the app, the other stars were only asked to make statements.
News18 quoted sources within the ED as saying that as many as 16 Bollywood celebrities were also under investigation for attending or performing at Chandrakar’s wedding in February and the company’s success party in September 2022.
SOURCE: Business Standard.
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