The Mahadev app betting case, which has sent shockwaves through Bollywood, has led to the summoning of top celebrities, including Ranbir Kapoor, Kapil Sharma and Shraddha Kapoor, by the authorities. The alleged scam, worth thousands of crores, involves illegal betting platforms for various games, including live betting on Indian elections.
The case came to light through multiple FIRs registered by the Chhattisgarh police and the Cyber Crime Unit of the Andhra Pradesh police, revealing illegal betting activities using these apps. Over 70 FIRs have been filed in Chhattisgarh, resulting in the arrest of hundreds of accused individuals from across the country. They were involved in managing these apps and used Hawala routes to divert funds. The masterminds, Saurabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal, were operating from Dubai.
The Enforcement Directorate’s remand application revealed that the first chargesheet filed by the Chhattisgarh Police implicated Alok Singh Rajpoot, Rampravesh Sahu, Kharag alias Raja Singh, and others for online betting in live ludo, football, casino games, and marks through Mahadev Book. These accused set up a system with laptops to collect money, created online IDs and placed bets through Mahadev Book.
Additionally, the Andhra Pradesh police identified 19 individuals involved in the backend operations of the Mahadev app. These individuals collected money from punters, deposited it in shell bank accounts via WhatsApp, and placed bets on websites like Tiger Exchange, Gold365, Laser247, CricketBuzz.com, Play247.win, SkyLexchange.com, and CricketBet.com, based on punters’ preferences. The money generated through the app was then transferred to various benami accounts before being funnelled to Saurabh Chandrakar, a native of Chhattisgarh residing in Dubai.
These accused placed bets through Mahadev Book on online cricket matches, horse racing, greyhound racing, and Kabaddi, among other things
The ED alleges that Chandrakar and his associates, Ravi Utpal, Kapil Chellani and Satish Kumar, also reside in Dubai and operate approximately 60 illegal offshore gambling websites, including Lotus365, FairPlay, Reddy Anna, Laser Book, Tiger Exchange, BetBook247 and Gold365. Chandrakar has a history of being a fugitive, exploiting legal loopholes to operate from abroad, with several cases related to fraud and illegal activities filed against him.
The ED stated, “Betting through Mahadev Book is being conducted countrywide, and investigations reveal that the gambling network is worth thousands of crores.”
Numerous FIRs were filed against individuals involved in illegal betting operations through the Mahadev Book app and Reddy Anna app after their discovery through media reports. The investigation also unveiled the fraudulent opening of Benami bank accounts and misusing PAN and Aadhaar details of unsuspecting vendors, which were then used for significant transactions related to Mahadev Book.
The Mahadev online book offers illegal betting in various live games, including poker, card games, chance games, and sports betting on cricket, football, tennis, and more. The app also features a variety of card games such as Teen Patti, Poker, Dragon Tiger, and virtual cricket games using cards.
How app operates, as per ED
The Mahadev app operates multiple websites and closed groups on chat apps. Users are provided with a contact number on their website, which can only be reached through WhatsApp. Upon contacting this number, users receive two separate contact numbers: one for depositing money and collecting points in IDs used for placing bets and another for redeeming accumulated points in designated IDs. These IDs are typically created on various websites like “laser247.com,” “laserbook247.com,” “betbhai.com,” “betbook247.com,” “tigerexch247.com,” “cricketbet9.com,” etc., based on the preferences of the bettors. These operations, including money collection, user ID creation, distribution of user ID credentials, and money distribution, are managed by panel/branch owners. The games are rigged to ensure panel owners do not incur losses, and despite initial profits for users, they are likely to lose money.
The ED stated, “The app is operated through various ‘Panel/Branches,’ sold as small franchises by Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal, who retain nearly 80 per cent of the panel operations’ profits. A panel has an owner and typically four workers, with one individual owning multiple panels. The main office is operated by Chandrakar and Uppal in Dubai, commonly referred to as the ‘HO’ or ‘Head Office’ by the panel owners.”
Panel operators are provided with fixed credits, which they can transfer to players/punters at lower levels. These credits are assigned to players in exchange for payments made to designated bank accounts. Players interested in online betting through Mahadev Book contact the provided WhatsApp number on the Mahadev Book website. The Head Office then refers these players to the panels, and the allocation of a panel to a new player is at the discretion of the HO.
Upon receiving panel details, players deposit a minimum amount of R100 (with no maximum limit) for online betting. Panel owners receive these funds into bank accounts arranged/provided by themselves. These bank accounts are either fraudulently opened or used to earn a commission. After receiving funds from punters, the panel owner shares payment receipts with Mahadev Book owners through WhatsApp.
Profit and loss
The Head Office provides weekly sheets to panel owners containing statistics of all bets and the total profit or loss. Regardless of the final outcome of bets, 20 per cent of the earnings go to the panel operator, and this amount is delivered to the panel owners either through legitimate banking channels or via hawala. Bank accounts and WhatsApp numbers are frequently changed.
The ED said, “In cases where FIRs are filed, typically only small-level punters or panel operators are arrested, while the main accused located abroad remain beyond the reach of Indian law enforcement agencies.”
The investigation has also revealed connections between illegal betting apps and political figures. Individuals suspected of receiving substantial amounts are currently under examination, including Chhattisgarh chief minister’s OSD Vinod Verma, whose statement has been recorded by the ED.
The film stars are being scrutinised for promoting and attending promotional events, weddings, and success parties in Dubai. “The celebrities have received substantial amounts from the promoters through illicit channels, and we possess evidence of cash and cheque payments made to them. To verify these facts, they have been summoned to participate in the investigation, and most of them have time to appear before the investigating officer,” said an ED officer.
No. of FIRs filed