ED seizes assets worth ₹8 cr during searches against Fairplay, other apps | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

ED seizes assets worth 8 cr during searches against Fairplay, other apps

Jun 14, 2024 08:12 AM IST

ED seized assets worth ₹8 crore in Mumbai and Pune linked to Fairplay app for alleged illegal streaming of cricket and online betting activities.

MUMBAI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday carried out searches at 19 locations across Mumbai and Pune and seized movable assets, including cash, bank funds, Demat account holdings and luxury watches, estimated to be worth around 8 crore linked to the Fairplay app.

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As part of its money laundering investigation into mobile applications, including Fairplay for the alleged illegal streaming of cricket, including a few Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in 2023 and online betting on 2024 Lok Sabha election results, ED’s probe has found.

The Fairplay app is said to be linked to the Mahadev Online Book (MOB) platform, whose illegal online betting activities have been probed in a separate investigation by the ED since 2022.

The agency also recovered other incriminating documents and digital devices whose content is being assessed for their evidentiary value in the case. The role of the entities whose premises were searched had surfaced in the agency’s probe of the transactions related to the case, agency sources said.

ED’s probe against Fairplay Sport LLC and others is based on an FIR registered by the Mumbai police’s Nodal Cyber Police on the complaint of Viacom18 Media Pvt Limited under sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Information Technology Act for allegedly causing loss of revenue of over 100 crore, which is the proceeds of crime in ED’s case.

The complainant had alleged that the matches were illegally streamed on Fairplay, and many celebrities had endorsed and promoted the betting application. Viacom18 owns several television channels and an OTT platform. The complainant had alleged that the accused online apps had shown Viacom 18’s content without acquiring legal rights for monetary gains thereby causing a loss to the company of over 100 crore.

ED’s probe revealed that Fairplay had allegedly made pacts through foreign-based entities located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Curacao, with Indian agencies representing celebrities. The probe found that no due diligence had been performed by Indian agencies concerning Fairplay before executing the agreements for its promotion, the sources said.

Further, it was revealed that Fairplay had allegedly collected funds through various bogus/shell bank accounts, which in turn were layered through a complex web of bank accounts of shell entities and were then accumulated in pharmaceutical firms involved in bogus billing, the sources said.

Funds from such firms were then allegedly diverted to overseas shell entities located in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China and Dubai. “More than 400 bank accounts of shell entities were found to have been used for these purposes, which are under examination, along with the trail of and utilisation of funds gathered from the lay public by Fairplay,” an agency source said.

Rapper Badshah was questioned by the cyber police cell in the case in October 2023. However, Badshah’s lawyer, advocate Prashant Patil, had clarified that the rapper had not done anything wrong, and the Cyber police had summoned him as a witness. Patil said the rapper had provided all the documents sought by the police and assured them that he would cooperate in the probe.

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