Friday, September 22, 2023
HomeIndiaED arrests 4 including Chhattisgarh ASI in Mahadev app money laundering case

ED arrests 4 including Chhattisgarh ASI in Mahadev app money laundering case

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) named Chandrabhushan Verma of Chhattisgarh Police, and three others — Satish Chandrakar, Anil Dammani and Sunil Dammani — as part of its ongoing investigation into the Mahadev app money laundering case .

The ED had initiated a PMLA investigation based on FIRs registered by the Chhattisgarh Police. The FIRs were registered by the Vishakhapatnam Police and other states were taken on record.

The ED investigation revealed that the Mahadev app provides online platforms for illegal betting in different live games like poker, card games, chance games, betting on cricket, badminton, tennis, football matches etc., besides providing facility for playing a number of card games, besides allowing placing bets on different elections in India.

Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal, who hail from Bhilai, Chhattisgarh, are the promoters of the app and ran their operations from Dubai. 

“Mahadev Book maintained various websites and operated a number of closed groups, which advertised contact numbers on websites to lure people to play and earn profits. Such numbers could only be contacted over WhatsApp. Once a user contacted the number, he was provided two separate contact numbers. One contact number was for depositing money and collecting points in user IDs used to place bets.

“The second number was for contacting the website to encash the accumulated points in the designated IDs. The IDs were generally created on multiple websites depending on the need and preference of the betters.

“These operations of collection of money, creation of user ID, distribution of user ID credentials to the customers, and distribution of the money were done by panel/branch owners. Also, all the games were rigged in a manner that the panel owners didn’t not lose money and despite initial profits to the user, ultimately they were likely to lose money,” the ED said.

The ED also said that the betting app was operated by various branches, which were sold by Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal like a small franchise. But they kept nearly 80 per cent of the profit of the panel operations.

A panel had an owner and workers who were usually four in number. One person could own multiple panels. The main office operated by Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal in Dubai was commonly referred to as ‘HO’ or ‘head office’ by the panel owners.

Head office created ‘profile’ for the panel owner who could further create user profile of the players/punters. The players had to deposit money in benami accounts shared online and then were assigned panels by the HO.

Payouts were also done using benami bank accounts, which were either opened fraudulently or were loaned for commission. Weekly sheets were shared with the panel owners by the head office which contained statistics of all bets, total profit or total loss.

Whatever be the final result of bets, 20 per cent was the share of the panel operators and this amount was delivered to the panel owners either through banking channels or through hawala.

Rest of the profits were appropriated by the head office. The bank accounts and WhatsApp numbers were changed frequently. Even if FIRs were registered, normally only the small level punters or panel operators were arrested. The main accused sitting abroad were out of the reach of the Indian law enforcement agencies. 

“A large number of bank accounts in the name of unsuspecting people were opened by the promoters and panel operators. Most of the bank accounts were opened in Chhattisgarh only. Multiple call centres were being run from abroad by the HO to assist the players and panel operators.

“The youth of Bhilai thronged Dubai in large numbers and after gaining experience in running back-end operations, came back to India and opened their own panels,” the ED said.

The ED investigation has revealed that ASI Chandrabhushan Verma was acting as the main liasioner on ground in Chhattisgarh. He along with Satish Chandrakar was receiving hefty amounts every month via hawala channel from Dubai-based promoters of Mahadev Book and were distributing the same to senior police officers and leaders politically connected to the CMO as ‘protection money’.

The ED investigation conducted so far has revealed that around Rs 65 crore was received by ASI Verma who kept his cut and distributed bribes to senior police officers and politicians.

The ED investigation revealed that although Verma was not a very senior officer in the police hierarchy, through his relationship with highly-place contacts and with the help of the money received as kickbacks sent by Ravi Uppal from Dubai, he managed to influence senior officers.

Verma has admitted before the ED that he was receiving and paying large monthly bribes to many powerful people.

Searches were conducted at multiple locations by the ED on August 21 and 23 during a large amount of incriminating documents were seized. 

“The arrested accused persons have admitted to their role and have given trail of the bribes and a list of the beneficiaries of these bribes. The accused were arrested and produced before the PMLA court Raipur which remanded all the four accused to ED custody for six days,” an ED official said.

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