INDIA. Mumbai: The Directorate of Enforcement (ED) has uncovered a massive online betting and money laundering scheme operated by M/s Mahadev Online Book Betting APP, leading to the freezing of crime proceeds valued at Rs 417 crore. This significant development follows extensive raids conducted at numerous locations throughout the country.
Over the past few days, the ED conducted searches at 39 locations, including Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Mumbai (Maharashtra), and Kolkata (West Bengal). Furthermore, the agency has initiated investigations with international implications.
Non-Bailable Warrants have been issued by the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002) Special Court in Raipur for suspects who remain at large. These individuals include Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal, Yogesh Popat and Mithilesh, Dheeraj Ahuja and Vishal Ahuja, and Vikash Chhaparia and Govind Kedia.
M/s Mahadev Online Book Betting APP allegedly established websites to recruit new users and created new IDs to facilitate money laundering through a complex network of benami bank accounts.
The ED’s searches against money laundering networks yielded substantial incriminating evidence, resulting in the seizure of proceeds of crime amounting to Rs 417 crore, as indicated in the ED statement released on Friday.
Investigations uncovered that Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal, originally from Bhilai (Chhattisgarh), were the primary promoters of Mahadev Online Book, operating their activities from Dubai.
M/s Mahadev Online Book was run from a central head office in the UAE, with “panels/branches” being franchised to their known associates on a 70%-30% profit-sharing basis.
Extensive hawala operations were employed to divert the proceeds of betting to offshore accounts. Additionally, a significant cash outlay was made in India for advertising betting websites and self-promotion, necessary to attract new users and franchise seekers.
Prior to this, the ED had conducted searches in Chhattisgarh, resulting in the arrest of four individuals connected to this betting syndicate, which allegedly organized payments to senior government functionaries as “protection money.”
During the course of the investigation, the ED discovered that Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal had created a significant presence in the UAE.
In February, Sourabh Chandrakar’s wedding in RAK, UAE, incurred expenditures of approximately Rs 200 crore in cash. Private jets were chartered to transport family members from Nagpur (Maharashtra) to the UAE.
The wedding ceremony featured celebrity performances, with Tiger Shroff and Sunny Leone among the notable attendees.
Services such as wedding planners, dancers, decorators, etc., were hired from Mumbai, with hawala channels facilitating cash payments.
Based on digital evidence collected by the ED, an amount of Rs 112 crore was funneled via hawala to an events management company, M/s R-1 Events Pvt Ltd, managed by Yogesh Popat.
Hotel bookings amounting to Rs 42 crore were settled in cash in United Arab Emirates dirhams (AEDs). Subsequent searches at Yogesh Popat’s premises resulted in the seizure of unaccounted cash totaling Rs 2.37 crore.
Numerous celebrities were noted to endorse these betting entities and perform at their events in exchange for substantial fees, often funneled through dubious transactions. Ultimately, payments were sourced from the proceeds of online betting.
The ED also conducted searches at M/s Rapid Travels, run by Dheeraj Ahuja and Vishal Ahuja, in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh).
This agency managed the ticketing operations for the Mahadev APP promoters, their family members, business associates, and celebrities endorsing betting websites such as fairplay.com and reddy anna APP.
M/s Rapid Travels played a crucial role in arranging travel logistics for Mahadev group events, including star-studded gatherings held in the UAE.
Furthermore, the ED uncovered that Vikash Chhaparia, based in Kolkata, was responsible for coordinating hawala-related operations for the Mahadev APP. Searches were conducted at his premises and at the premises of his associate, Govind Kedia.
It was revealed that, with the assistance of Govind Kedia, Vikas Chaparia, through his entities, including M/s Perfect Plan Investments LLP, M/s Exim General Trading FZCO, and M/s Techpro IT Solutions LLC, made substantial investments in the Indian stock market through the Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) route.
Consequently, ED has frozen cash derivatives and other security holdings worth Rs 236.3 crore owned by Vikas Chhaparia under the PMLA 2002.
Furthermore, assets valued at Rs 160 crore in DEMAT holdings of Govind Kedia have also been frozen. Searches at Kedia’s premises resulted in the seizure of Indian currency worth Rs 18 lakh, gold, and jewelry valued at Rs 13 crore.