Almost 17 Bollywood celebrities have come under the radar of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for receiving money from the promoters of the infamous betting app Mahadev, or, for promoting their product. From Ranbir Kapoor and Kapil Sharma, to Shraddha Kapoor and Huma Qureshi, the involvement of high-profile film industry stars in the Mahadev money laundering scam has catapulted it to the national spotlight.
Mahadev betting app
The Mahadev betting app had a variety of games, lotteries and betting options for everyone around—from predicting election results, to weather forecasts and game matches—the company continued operations of rigged betting for four years.
The ED investigation has shown that Mahadev Online Book App is run from a central head office in the UAE, officials said.It operates by franchising “Panel/Branches” to their known associates on a 70-30 per cent profit ratio, the ED said.
The ED has alleged that the company was using the betting app to enroll new users, create IDs and launder money through a convoluted network of benami bank accounts.
Just a month ago, the ED had frozen and seized assets worth Rs 417 crore in connection with the money laundering case following searches at 39 locations. Money was transferred from owners Saurabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal in Dubai to hawala operators Sunil Damani and Anil Damani in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur to Assistant Sub-Inspector Chandrabhushan Verma and finally to bureaucrats and politicians, the ED has claimed.
While these operations had been going on for a while, it was founder Chandrakar’s Rs 200-crore lavish wedding in Ras Al-Khaimah, Dubai that brought the app into the crosshairs of the probe agency.
Reportedly, star studded wedding had witnessed performances by Vishal Dadlani, Tiger Shroff, Sonakshi Sinha, Atif Aslam, Sunny Leone, Neha Kakkar, Ali Asgar, Bharti Singh, Bhagyashree, Pulkit Samrat, Elli Avram and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
“In February 2023, Saurabh Chandrakar got married at RAK, UAE, and for this marriage ceremony, the promoters of Mahadev APP spent around Rs 200 Crore in Cash,” the ED said in a statement dated September 15.
The ED added that the event management company received Rs 112 crore via hawala transactions (which included costs of private jets) and Rs 42 crore in cash in UAE currency, which was used to make hotel reservations.
“Mahadev Book maintains various websites and operates a number of closed groups on chat apps. They provide a contact number over the website. This number can only be contacted over WhatsApp. Once a user contacts this number, he will be provided two separate contact numbers. One contact number is to be contacted for depositing money and collecting points in IDs used to make bets. The second number is for contacting the website to encash the accumulated points in the designated IDs,” ED documents accessed by News18 said.
“The IDs are generally created on multiple websites like laser247.com, laserbook247.com, betbhai.com, betbook247.com, tigerexch247.com, cricketbet9.com etc depending on the need and preference of ‘betters’…. All the games are rigged in a manner that overall the panel (franchise) owners will not lose money and despite initial profits to the user, ultimately, they are likely to lose money,” it added.
The ED has further noted that money was siphoned from Dubai by Saurabh and Ravi, who hail from Chhattisgarh, and brothers Sunil Damani and Anil Damani arranged for its distribution in India to bribe politicians and policemen.
The ED has come down heavily on those associated with the company, and it is likely that the probe agency is going to escalate things, given the involvement of high-profile personalities.
(Published 06 October 2023, 16:53 IST)