CBI, NIA, ED investigating Mahadev Book gambling racket: Report

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The recent crackdown of Chhattisgarh Police on the local network of the Mahadev App and Reddy Anna app appears to have caught operators only from the lower rung of the betting racket while the leaders in top hierarchy are out of reach to the police sleuths. The apps are controlled and conceptualized by a group of youth from Chattisgarh who have fled the country in the last few years.

In a largest crackdown last month the Chattisgarh Police arrested around 250 on allegations of operating online betting through Mahadev Book.

Betting and gambling is illegal in India. But offshore gambling websites including Mahadev Book and Reddy Anna have started operating and advertising in India aggressively since April-May 2021. The portals used mainstream media to promote illegal gambling offerings. In June and in October, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued an advisory to print, electronic, and digital media to refrain from advertising online betting platforms.

The Enforcement Directorate investigators who have been investigating the issue for a while are astonished by the scale and reach of the Reddy Anna and Mahadev book network in Chhattisgarh and other parts of India.

These illegal online betting platforms reportedly generate money to the tune of Rs 250-300 crore per month. The prime accussed are Saurabh Chandrakar, Ravi Uppal and Atul Agrawal from Bhilai and Raigarh, all three currently out of the country.

According to an undated anonymous complaint, the group started online gambling operations in 2019-20 which grew exponentially between 2019 and 2021. The complaint was addressed  Principal Director of Investigation, Income Tax; Director, CBI; Joint Director (ED), and DG, NIA.

The complaint copy which was accessed by G2G referred to a three-day gala event in Dubai celebrating the third-anniversary of Mahadev Book this September which was attended by celebrities, Sanjay Dutt, Kapil Sharma, Mouni Roy, and Shenaz Gill, among others. The issue reportedly caught the eyes of law enforcement authorities who have zeroed in on around 80 influential people who had attended the gala party in Dubai. The compliant also alleged that several Pakistani businessman with links to D-Company have invested close to Rs 100 crore in the business.

As per the information reported online, the Mahadev app was first registered in Dubai in 2016 and allegedly has links with fugitive mafia don Dawood Ibrahim. The group pays Rs 100 crore per month as protection money to D-Company, a highly placed source claimed according to the Statesman.

The network area of Mahadev and Reddy Anna apps overlap with the Naxal-infested regions of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Telangana, Andhra, and Madhya Pradesh raising doubts about naxal linkages. It is alleged that the naxal insurgents may be using the apps to launder and finance money for their operations.

The modus operandi involves operating one thousand corporate bank accounts with each account having a monthly transaction limit of up to Rs 1 crore. The money is collected in the bank accounts of defunct industries and sent to Dubai in violation of foreign exchange laws.