The Indian police force has had its run-ins with gambling related crimes in the past like when they revealed an intricate cyber extortion racket. This time, the scandal circles around money laundering.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has apprehended four individuals from Raipur in connection with the money laundering scandal surrounding the "Mahadev" online betting application. The scope and breadth of the illegal operation is beginning to come to light, and it appears that political ramifications may occur.
The start of the ED's investigation is rooted in two FIRs. The Chhattisgarh police registered one of them, which subsequently led to the detention of 19 individuals in Visakhapatnam. The magnitude of the illegal operation is staggering; early indications suggest that the app might have been used to launder around Rs 5,000 crores.
Among the arrested are two Raipur-based businessmen, brothers Sunil and Anil Dammani. The other two detainees include Chandra Bhushan Verma, an Assistant Sub Inspector in Chhattisgarh police, and Satish Chandrakar. While the quartet remains in custody for six days, their attorney, advocate Syed Zeeshan, has fervently denied all allegations, labelling them as baseless.
The investigation's political undercurrents have surfaced with the ED turning their attention to Vinod Verma, the political advisor to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. Verma's premises, among others, have been searched, fueling speculation about his potential involvement. Moreover, the ED has summoned Verma and the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Manish Banchhore for questioning, both of whom are closely affiliated with the Chief Minister.
The Mahadev betting app, despite its illegitimate operations, was expansive. Operating from around 30 centres, the app witnessed an astounding million users placing their bets over the past year. These wagers predominantly catered to the middle class, with bets typically ranging between ₹1,000 to ₹5,000.
But how did this vast operation go unnoticed? The app's handlers used fake documents to create bank accounts, or in some instances, preyed on the vulnerable, persuading them to part with their Aadhaar or PAN details for a mere ₹5,000. Money seamlessly flowed from savings accounts to corporate ones, maintaining a deceptive balance to avoid suspicion.
Investigators now believe that the primary infrastructure for the Mahadev App is based in Dubai, a place where betting practices are legally sanctioned. This international base was perhaps strategically used to lure Indian customers into the betting quagmire. Given this revelation, the ED's future actions may very well extend beyond Indian shores.
As more details come to light, further political ramifications will happen. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has labelled the ED’s operations as malicious attempts to tarnish the reputation of his government. With investigations still underway, the full political implications of this scandal remain to be seen.
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