Probe Agency Makes 9th Arrest In Mahadev Betting App Case

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Probe Agency Makes 9th Arrest In Mahadev Betting App Case

The probe found out that companies were set up in Diwan’s name in the UAE (Representational)

Raipur:

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday said it has made a fresh and the ninth arrest in connection with its money-laundering probe into the alleged illegal operations of the Mahadev online gaming and betting application that purportedly involve high-ranking politicians and bureaucrats from Chhattisgarh.

Nitish Diwan was taken into custody under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in Raipur on Thursday and a special court sent him to the ED’s custody till February 24, the federal agency said in a statement.

This is the ninth arrest in the case by the ED. It earlier arrested Nitin Tibrewal, a resident of Kolkata, Raipur-based Amit Agrawal, alleged cash courier Asim Das, police constable Bheem Singh Yadav, Assistant Sub-Inspector Chandrabhushan Verma, alleged “hawala” operator brothers Anil and Sunil Dammani and a man identified as Satish Chandrakar.

“Nitish Diwan was working at the highest level of Mahadev Online Book (MOB) in the UAE. He was close to the promoters of the Mahadev app to the extent that he was sent to Zimbabwe by them to look for opportunities for setting up betting operations there,” the federal agency claimed.

Diwan, it said, was found to be “holding assets in his name, which were beneficially owned by the promoters of Mahadev Online Book”.

He was “fully aware” of the app’s illegal operations and was holding and operating bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for routing funds, the ED alleged.

The probe found out that companies were set up in Diwan’s name in the UAE and these companies provided visa services to the MOB staff working in Dubai and were also being used to route illegal betting proceeds, the agency said.

Diwan was found to be “knowingly assisting” the promoters of MOB in their money-laundering activities, the ED charged.

In its second chargesheet filed in January, the agency furnished the statement of Diwan, saying he told the ED sleuths that the Mahadev app and its subsidiary “Reddy Anna Book” operated as many as 3,200 panels that generated Rs 40 crore per day and the promoters of the app had rented 20 villas in Dubai to accommodate their nearly 3,500 staff.

“The expenses incurred on food, lodging, medicine, travel and visa were borne by the promoters,” Diwan told the ED.

He told the agency that a success party was organised by the promoters of the app in Dubai on September 18, 2022, which was attended by many “Bollywood stars”.

The agency had earlier said the alleged illegal funds generated by the app were used to pay bribes to politicians and bureaucrats in Chhattisgarh.

Several celebrities, including Bollywood actors, were summoned for questioning by the agency on their links with the online betting platform and the mode of payment.

So far, the ED has filed two chargesheets in the case, including against the two main promoters of the alleged illegal betting and gaming app — Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal.

According to officials, Chandrakar and Uppal were recently detained in Dubai on the basis of an Interpol red notice issued at the behest of the ED and the agency is trying to get them deported or extradited from the UAE to India.

The ED has alleged in the first chargesheet that Chandrakar got married at Ras Al Khaimah, UAE in February 2023 and an amount of about Rs 200 crore “in cash” was spent on the event.

Private jets were hired to ferry Chandrakar’s relatives from India to the UAE and celebrities were paid to perform at the wedding, the agency has alleged.

The projected proceeds of crime in the case are about Rs 6,000 crore, according to the agency.

In November last year, just before the first phase of the Chhattisgarh Assembly polls, the ED had claimed that a forensic analysis and the statement of Asim Das had led to “startling allegations” that the Mahadev betting app promoters had paid about Rs 508 crore to former chief minister of the state and senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel, adding that these allegations were a “subject matter of investigation”.

Baghel had called these charges an attempt to “malign” his image, while the Congress had described the development as a result of “vendetta politics” of the BJP-led Centre.

Chandrakar and Uppal hail from Bhilai town in Chhattisgarh. The Mahadev online betting app is an umbrella syndicate that arranges online platforms for enabling illegal betting websites. 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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