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FIR Filed Against Former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel

According to authorities, the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) in Chhattisgarh has launched a complaint against former Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and others in connection with the suspected Mahadev internet betting scam, based on an ED inquiry report.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which has been investigating the Mahadev app-linked money laundering case for more than a year, alleged in the past that its probe has shown involvement of various high-ranking politicians and bureaucrats from Chhattisgarh, where the two main promoters of the app hail from.

The projected proceeds of crime in this case are about ₹ 6,000 crore, according to the ED.

“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,” a senior EOW official said.

Baghel, the senior Congress leader, along with the app promoters Ravi Uppal, Saurabh Chandrakar, Shubham Soni and Anil Kumar Agrawal and 14 others have been named as accused in the FIR, he said.

Some bureaucrats, police officials, officers on special duty (OSDs) and other unidentified private persons have also been made accused (without being named) in the case, he said.

The case has been registered under various Indian Penal Code Sections, 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 said.

The FIR, citing the ED’s report, 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 and Telegram and other social media platforms.

The promoters created different platforms and conducted illegal acts of online betting through panel operators/ branch operators. They kept 70 to 80 per cent of the illegal earnings with them and distributed the rest of the money to panel operators/ branch operators, it alleged.

The promoters and panel operators fetched around ₹ 450 crore per month through the online betting app after the lockdown was imposed in 2020 (following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic), the FIR claimed.

For transaction of the illegally obtained money, bank accounts were opened on the basis of fake documents by the promoters and panel operators of the Mahadev Book App and hundreds of bank accounts were operated on the basis of commission with the money obtained from betting. The panel operators transferred illegal money to the promoters in the UAE through various bank accounts, it said.

A huge amount of money was spent by the app promoters for advertising betting websites. For this, annual star-studded events were also organised, in which celebrities were involved by paying them illegal money obtained from betting, the FIR said.

The illegal money obtained from online betting by the app promoters has been invested in many companies, shell companies, stock market and crypto currency, it said.

A similar betting platform called Sky Exchange was being run by Hari Shankar Tibrewal, who was associated with the Mahadev Online Book and the ED has attached his assets worth around ₹ 580 crore, the FIR said.

To prevent legal action against the illegal act of online betting, the promoters of Mahadev Book App had given huge protection money to various police and administrative officers and influential political persons, it claimed.

Hawala operators were used for the arrangement and distribution of the protection money and police officers/employees were also used as couriers for the purpose, the FIR claimed.

Various police, administrative officers and influential political persons have misused their positions and acquired illegal assets in the form of protection money. Provisional attachment of many immovable properties has been done by the ED, it said.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, targeted Baghel over the Mahadev app case during the Chhattisgarh assembly polls last year.

Baghel had termed the ED’s action in the Mahadev betting app case as a “political conspiracy” and accused the federal agency of acting at the behest of its “political masters”.

So far, the ED has arrested nine persons in this case.

The ED has filed two chargesheets in the case till now in Raipur court, including against Chandrakar and Uppal. It had earlier conducted multiple raids in connection the case.

“Operations of Mahadev Online Book are being run from Dubai and it operates by franchising panel/branches to their known associates on 70-30 per cent profit ratio,” the ED said.

“The main promoters of MOB are also partners/promoters in multiple such online betting books like Reddy Anna, Fairplay, etc and large-scale hawala operations are done to siphon off the proceeds of betting proceeds to off-shore accounts,” it claimed.

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(Source: NDTV)

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