Money laundering probe: eight betting apps, including Fairplay, face ED scrutiny over illegal IPL broadcasts

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has expanded its probe into the world of illicit online betting, registering a money-laundering case against eight betting apps, with a spotlight on the Fairplay, which recently gained attention through celebrity endorsements in Bollywood.

The ED’s move stems from a First Information Report (FIR) filed by Viacom18, the media company, highlighting the unauthorized streaming of IPL tournaments on platforms such as Fairplay, reported India Today. The FIR pointed out that during the 2023 IPL season, Viacom18 held the broadcasting rights but these apps, unlawfully live-streamed matches and facilitated illegal betting on ongoing games.

The FIR also implicated actors and singers who promoted these apps through advertisements, enticing viewers to watch IPL matches on their platforms. Fairplay, in particular, was accused of an extensive promotional campaign that spanned social media, trains, metros, and billboards across the city.

This development follows closely on the heels of the Mahadev app case, where the ED uncovered connections between Bollywood figures and the app’s promotion. The investigations revealed a complex web involving the underworld, with links to Dawood Ibrahim’s brother.

Bollywood rapper Badshah and other celebrities, whose statements were recorded by the Maharashtra cyber police, faced accusations of endorsing the betting app and encouraging audiences to tune in for cricket matches.

The Fairplay app’s alleged association with the Mahadev Open Book (MOB) platform further intensifies the network of these illicit betting operations. The initial FIR in this case was lodged on April 20, 2023, based on a complaint by Vinitchandra Sharma, Viacom 18’s Vice President of the Legal Department. Sharma contended that Fairplay and similar apps had illegally streamed Viacom 18’s content, causing substantial financial losses exceeding Rs 100 crore to the company.

Viacom18’s anti-piracy team had earlier identified seven apps, including Pikashow, Foxi, Vedu, Smart Player Lite app, Film Plus app, Tea TV app, and Wow TV app, for allegedly streaming content illegally. Subsequently, it was discovered that the Fairplay app, from March 31, 2023, to April 7, 2023, had illegally live-streamed Tata IPL matches, adding to the array of legal challenges faced by the app.