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Chhattisgarh: EOW registers FIR against ex-CM Bhupesh Baghel and others in Mahadev betting scam case

In January, the ED had named Baghel in its supplementary chargesheet related to allegations of receiving bribes amounting to approximately Rs 508 crore from the promoters of the app.

The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) in Chhattisgarh has registered an FIR against former state Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and others in the Mahadev online betting scam case, officials said on Sunday (17th March). According to the officials, the FIR has been filed based on a report submitted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). 

Notably, the ED has been probing the money-laundering angel in the Mahadev betting app case for more than a year. Earlier, the agency had stated that its probe had revealed the involvement of various high-ranking politicians and bureaucrats from Chhattisgarh, the home state of two main promoters of the betting app. 

A senior EOW official said, “The ED has been investigating the case, and based on its report submitted to the state’s Economic Offences Wing/Anti-Corruption Bureau, the FIR was registered against Baghel and others at the EOW police station here on March 4.”

He added that former CM Baghel, along with app promoters Ravi Uppal, Saurabh Chandrakar, Shubham Soni, Anil Kumar Agrawal, and 14 others, have been named as accused in the FIR. Meanwhile, some bureaucrats, police officials, officers on special duty (OSDs), and other unidentified private persons have also been accused in the case without being named.

The case has been registered under various sections of IPC including 120B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), and 471 (using as genuine a forged document), and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018, the official added.

ED findings which led to the FIR against the Former CM and others

The ED had revealed in November 2023 that app promoters Saurabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal paid bribes worth Rs 508 crore. The duo was detained in Dubai based on an Interpol red notice issued at the behest of the ED. Currently, they are in detention in a UAE facility and extradition requests have already been sent through the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Subsequently, in January, the ED had named Baghel in its supplementary chargesheet related to allegations of receiving bribes amounting to approximately Rs 508 crore from the promoters of the Mahadev app from the UAE.

According to the ED, the projected proceeds of crime in this case are about Rs 6,000 crore. 

Earlier, during an investigation into this case, the ED revealed that several dummy accounts and fake bank entities were being used to invest nearly Rs 1,100 crore in the stock market.

So far, the agency has arrested nine accused and seized or frozen assets worth Rs 1764.5 crore in this case. Further, the ED has filed two chargesheets in the case in Raipur court, including against Chandrakar and Uppal. It had conducted multiple raids in connection with the case. 

Click here to read complete details about the Mahadev Betting App scam and how such betting companies evade taxes.

What does the FIR state

Citing ED’s report, the FIR stated that Mahadev Book App promoters Uppal, Chandrakar, Soni, and Agrawal created the platform for live online betting and indulged in betting through WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram and other social media platforms.

As per the FIR, the promoters created different platforms and conducted illegal acts of online betting through panel operators/ branch operators. They kept 70 to 80 percent of the illegal earnings with them and distributed the rest of the money to panel operators/ branch operators, FIR states.

According to the FIR, the promoters and panel operators illegally collected around Rs 450 crore per month through the online betting app after the lockdown was imposed in 2020 (following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic). 

It adds that for transactions of illegally obtained money, bank accounts were opened based on fake documents by the promoters and panel operators of the Mahadev Book App, and hundreds of bank accounts were operated based on commission with the money obtained from betting. Through various bank accounts, the panel operators transferred illegal money to the promoters in the UAE. 

The FIR notes that a huge amount of money was spent by the app promoters for advertising betting websites. Additionally, annual star-studded events were also organised. By paying them illegal money obtained from betting, they also involved several Bollywood celebrities at these events. The ED had earlier summoned several Bollywood celebrities including Ranbir Kapoor in connection with the Mahadev betting scam case. 

The illegal money obtained from online betting by the app promoters has been invested in many companies, shell companies, stock market, and cryptocurrency, the FIR adds.

Further, the FIR says that a similar betting platform called Sky Exchange was being run by Hari Shankar Tibrewal. As per FIR, he was associated with the Mahadev Online Book and the ED has attached his assets worth around Rs 580 crore

According to the FIR, to prevent legal action against the illegal act of online betting, the promoters of the Mahadev Book App had given huge protection money to various police and administrative officers and influential political persons. They used Hawala operators for the arrangement and distribution of the protection money while police officers/employees were also used as couriers for the purpose. 

The FIR notes that various police, administrative officers, and influential political persons have misused their positions and acquired illegal assets in the form of “protection money”.

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
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