Mahadev betting case: Several Bollywood celebs under ED scanner; likely to be summoned
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating 17 celebrities, including Bollywood actors and singers, for attending a lavish Dubai wedding allegedly funded by an online betting platform. The ED is also looking into allegations that the platform coordinated with a Pakistan-based associate to launch a betting app there. The agency has seized and frozen assets worth ₹417 crore ($55.8 million) linked to the platform. The investigation has revealed that cash was delivered through hawala channels and that private jets were hired for the wedding.
MUMBAI: Around 17 celebrities, including noted Bollywood actors, singers and comedians, are under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for having attended the lavish Dubai wedding of Sourabh Chandrakar, the co-promoter of Mahadev Online Book (MOB) app which allegedly conducts online betting.
Agency sources said some of them are likely to be summoned as witnesses in the money laundering case against the platform.
Some stars are already under ED’s scanner for having been allegedly paid ₹40 crore by the promoters of the betting platform to attend a party at a seven-star luxury hotel in Dubai scheduled for September 18 this year.
ED sources said the probe is also verifying allegations that MOB has coordinated with a Pakistan-based associate to launch a betting app there as well. ED’s scanner is also on celebrities who attended MOB’s September 2022 ‘success’ party held in Dubai which includes a top South - Indian actress and a popular television comedian.
The MOB promoter allegedly spent ₹200 crore of proceeds of crime on the wedding and the agency is trying to trace the money trail to establish the end-beneficiaries, ED sources said. The agency’s probe has revealed that several celebrities had attended the Dubai wedding at Ras Al- Khaimah in February this year and performed before the select gathering in lieu of hefty fees, which they received through dubious transactions,” the source said.
“Private jets were hired to ferry family members of the wedding party from Nagpur to UAE, celebrities were hired to perform in the marriage and wedding planners, dancers, decorators, etc, were hired from Mumbai and hawala channels were used to make the payments in cash,” the source added.
“Chandrakar and MOB platform’s other promoter Ravi Uppal have created an empire for themselves in the UAE. The sudden and illegal riches are being openly flaunted by them,” the source said.
“The probe has found evidence showing that cash of ₹112 crore was delivered through hawala channels to an events management company, R-1 Events Pvt Ltd, of one Yogesh Popat. Hotel bookings costing ₹42 crore were done by paying in cash in AED (UAE Dinar),” an ED source said.
“Searches were conducted by ED at the premises of Popat, one Mithilesh and others and evidence relating to the receipt of ₹112 crore hawala money is crystallised,” the source said. Subsequently, searches were conducted on the angadias named by Popat, which led to the seizure of unaccounted cash of ₹2.37 crore.
HT had on Friday reported about ED’s searches in Mumbai at the premises of eight city angadias entities that allegedly delivered at least ₹106 crore in cash to a Mumbai event management firm, which was entrusted to organise the Dubai wedding event of Chandrakar, from funds that are from the proceeds of crime in the case.
Seizure and freezing of ₹417-cr worth assets
ED recently conducted searches against the money laundering networks linked to MOB app in cities like Kolkata, Bhopal, Mumbai, among others and retrieved documents and froze / seized proceeds of crime worth ₹417 crore.
“It was found that Kolkata-based Vikash Chhaparia was handling all the hawala related operations for MOB app. ED conducted searches at his premises and at his associates, like Govind Kedia. It was found that with the help of Kedia, Chaparia through his entities was investing heavily in the Indian Stock market by way of Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) route,” the ED source said.
Cash derivative and other security holdings worth ₹236.3 crore in the name of entities beneficially owned by Chhaparia have been frozen by ED. “Further, assets worth ₹160 crore in DEMAT holdings of Govind Kedia have also been frozen by the agency. The searches at the premises of Kedia also resulted in seizure of Indian currency of ₹18 lakh, gold and jewellery valued at ₹13 crore,” the source said.
ED also conducted searches at the firm Rapid Travels in Bhopal which was responsible for the entire ticketing operations of the MOB promoters, family, business associates and even for the celebrities.