Former Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel named as accused in FIR on Mahadev bets scam | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Former Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel named as accused in FIR on Mahadev bets scam

By, New Delhi
Mar 17, 2024 06:38 AM IST

Baghel was with sections of cheating, criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and forgery under IPC and sections 7 and 11 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Chhattisgarh Police have filed a case naming former chief minister Bhupesh Baghel as an accused in the Mahadev Online Book app scam, estimated to be worth 6,000 crore, a development that could lead to legal problems for the Congress leader ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Congress leader and ex-Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel (File Photo)
Congress leader and ex-Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel (File Photo)

Baghel has been charged with various sections pertaining to cheating, criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, and forgery under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and sections 7 and 11 of the Prevention of Corruption Act in a first information report (FIR) filed by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) in Raipur on March 4.

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Those named along with Baghel in the FIR include Mahadev promoters Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal, 16 other named accused persons, and “unnamed” bureaucrats, police officers and officers on special duty (OSDs) during his tenure as the CM. HT has reviewed a copy of the FIR.

People familiar with the development said the case naming Baghel has been filed after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) sent two references to the state police, on January 8 and 30 this year, based on its findings that reveal the involvement of state government functionaries at the top level for allowing illegal activities of Mahadev in lieu of alleged “protection money”.

The financial crimes probe agency had alleged in November 2023 that Chandrakar and Uppal paid bribes worth 508 crore to Baghel. The two are currently in detention in a UAE facility and extradition requests have already been sent through the ministry of external affairs (MEA).

“The promoters of Mahadev Book App paid huge amounts of protection money to various police officers, administrative officers and influential political persons to stop police from taking any action on their illegal activities. This money used to reach the police and administrative officers through hawala operators, and then further to other senior police officers and influential political persons. This way, several police and administrative officers misused their official position to benefit themselves in the form of protection money and create illegal assets,” states the FIR.

Read Here: Baghel got 508 cr from Mahadev betting app promoters, says ED; CM dismisses charge

Interestingly, the FIR doesn’t name any senior police or administrative officers.

One of the people cited above said, “The ED is likely to register a fresh money laundering case naming Baghel based on this FIR.”

After losing the assembly elections in December, Baghel is set to fight the Lok Sabha election from the Rajnandgaon seat.

HT reached out to Baghel’s political adviser for a comment from the former CM but there was no response.

Read Here | Baghel's sharp dig at ED amid Mahadev app row: ‘Short break after Nov 17’

Citing ED’s findings, the FIR claims that Mahadev Book App and its associate companies together illegally collected 450 crore worth of proceeds of crime every month.

In its communication to Chhattisgarh police on January 8, while asking it to file an FIR, the ED said, “Chandrabhushan Verma made a startling disclosure, revealing that police officials/bureaucrats in Chhattisgarh were illicitly receiving bribes to overlook the unlawful betting activities conducted by Mahadev Book. Verma revealed that he was collecting hawala payments and distributing them to senior police officers and OSDs to the CM for ensuring smooth operations of betting websites and as protection money.”

So far, the ED has filed two charge sheets in the case, including one against Chandrakar and Uppal. The ED has alleged in its charge sheet that Chandrakar got married at Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, in February 2023 and about 200 crore in cash was spent for this event and private jets were hired to ferry his relatives from India to the UAE and celebrities were paid to perform at the wedding.

The projected proceeds of crime in the case are about 6,000 crore. So far, assets worth 572.41 crore have been seized or frozen by the ED in this case.

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    Neeraj Chauhan, senior associate editor with the National Political Bureau of Hindustan Times, writes on security, terrorism, corruption, laundering, black money, narcotics, and related policy matters while covering MHA, ED, CBI, NIA, IB, CVC, NHRC, CAG, Income Tax department, etc.

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