Hindi film actor Ranbir Kapoor has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the Mahadev online betting app case. He has been asked to appear before the agency on October 6. This case is related to a money laundering investigation involving the founders of the Mahadev betting app, Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal.
Kapoor is being investigated by the probe agency for his involvement as a social media influencer for the online betting platform. It is being alleged that he received payments for conducting promotional activities for the app.
BOOM explains how a Rs 200-cr UAE wedding paid for in cash put this betting app, along with the other celebrities who promoted it, under the ED scanner.
What do we know about Mahadev app?
The Mahadev app facilitated unlawful gambling on a variety of online activities, including poker, card games, games of chance, as well as sports like badminton, tennis, football, and cricket. The app is reportedly managed by Chandrakar and Uppal from Dubai. The duo actually hails from Bhilai, Chhattisgarh.
The app had many branches in India. These branches recruited agents who earned commissions of 6 per cent to 8 per cent when clients placed bets. Payments were mainly made through UPI-based systems. According to a report by the Hindustan Times, the app's credibility received a significant boost as it attracted 30-40 lakh customers through word-of-mouth referrals.
According to a report by The Indian Express, the app commenced its operations in 2017, but its user base experienced a substantial surge during the pandemic in 2020, and this upward trend continued through 2022.
The app came under scrutiny of ED, following the Rs 200-crore grand wedding of Chandrakar held in UAE. The entire amount spent on the bash was paid in cash. According to the probe agency, the wedding planners, dancers, decorators, among others, were hired from Mumbai and hawala channels were used to make payments in cash.
A hawala system is an informal value transfer system based on trust and personal relationship and operates outside of traditional banking channels. Funds are transferred via a network of hawala brokers, with each broker trusting the next in the chain to make good on the transaction.
ED, in its report, said, "Large scale hawala operations are done to siphon off the proceeds of betting to off-shore accounts. Large expenditure in cash is also being done in India for advertising of betting websites and self-grandizement necessary to attract new users (sic)."
What did the ED investigation reveal?
Following the tip-off, the case began with a raid by the Durg police in Bhilai on March 30, 2022. Subsequently, the probe agency conducted searches at 39 branch locations associated with the app, across Raipur, Bhopla, Mumbai and Kolkata and seized illegal assets worth Rs 417 crore.
According to ED, main promoters of Mahadev app, Chandrakar and Uppal, run their operations from Dubai and keep 80 per cent of the profits. Many individuals involved in the operation of the app across different districts have been apprehended. In 2022, transactions totaling ₹5,000 crores were conducted throughout India via the app. A total of 72 cases have been registered, leading to 449 arrests nationwide.
Officials have also seized 196 laptops, 885 mobile phones, other electronic gadgets, and more than Rs 40 lakh in cash. Approximately 1000 bank accounts associated with the application have been immobilised, bringing its activities to a standstill.
In relation to the involvement of celebrities, the ED report states, "It is found that many celebrities have been endorsing these betting entities and performing at their functions in return for hefty fees layered through dubious transactions, but ultimately paid from the proceeds of online betting."