ED to investigate celebrity endorsements of FairPlay betting app

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has started its inquiry into the endorsement deals of Bollywood celebrities with FairPlay app, a subsidiary app of Mahadev Online Book. This probe is to investigate money laundering activities. Viacom18 officials have been summoned to provide statements regarding the matter, which stems from an FIR filed by the broadcasting company, alleging a revenue loss of Rs.100 crores.

ED’s is now examining the contracts, payment modes, transactions, and company-related details involving various Bollywood personalities. ED will summon celebrities to record their statement as a prosecution witness, reported Free Press Journal. ¬†Notable figures such as Jacqueline Fernandez, Sanjay Dutt, Tamanna Bhatia, and Rapper Badshah are currently under the agency’s radar for their association with endorsing and promoting FairPlay.

It has come to light that funds from multiple shell companies were channelled to pay Bollywood celebrities for their promotional activities related to the betting app. Sanjay Dutt reportedly received Rs.25 lakhs for endorsing FairPlay on his Instagram page, from an account named “Play Venture,” a Singapore-based gaming company. While Jacqueline Fernandez received a payment from a Dubai-based company, suspected to be linked with money laundering activities associated with the betting industry.

Rapper Badshah received payments from a Melbourne-based company, believed to be a front for concealing illicit financial transactions. Actress Tamanna Bhatia, along with Amarya Dastur and social media influencer Suhana Khan, were also identified as promoters of FairPlay. The ED is analyzing promotional videos shared by these celebrities on various social media platforms.

Viacom18, the broadcasting company, has raised concerns over FairPlay allegedly broadcasting IPL 2023 matches without authorization and accepting bets on these matches. More than 40 Bollywood celebrities are now under scrutiny for their involvement in promoting FairPlay during the IPL 2023 season.

In a supplementary chargesheet filed in December 2023, the ED alleged that Mahadev Online Book and its sister concerns, including Fairplay, collectively earned approximately Rs.450 crores per month. The agency is investigating suspicious transactions conducted through hawala channels, specifically focusing on the role of Bollywood celebrities in endorsing and promoting betting apps.