Explainer: The Mahadev App online betting scam in Chhattisgarh - Hindustan Times
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Explainer: The Mahadev App online betting scam in Chhattisgarh

Aug 31, 2023 06:25 PM IST

Till now 72 cases have been registered by the Chhattisgarh police and 449 suspects have been arrested from Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Mumbai and other parts.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) questioned more than a dozen people and escalated the investigation into the Mahadev Application (MA) betting case in late August.

The interrogation of the arrested revealed that the Mahadev app was run from more than 30 centres, mostly in Chhattisgarh, and transactions worth over <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>200 crores were carried from each of these centres. (Shutterstock) PREMIUM
The interrogation of the arrested revealed that the Mahadev app was run from more than 30 centres, mostly in Chhattisgarh, and transactions worth over 200 crores were carried from each of these centres. (Shutterstock)

On August 24, the ED said that they had arrested four persons in a money laundering case (ECIR - RPZO/10/2022) related to the MA investigation. The four persons were identified as brothers Sunil Dammani and Anil Dammani, a policeman Chandra Bhushan Verma and Satish Chandrakar.

Officials from ED also questioned people close to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel including his political advisor Vinod Verma and officers on special duty (OSD), Manish Banchhor and Ashish Verma in connection to the investigation.

What is the Mahadev betting application case?

On March 30, 2022, acting on a tip-off, the Durg police first raided premises in Bhilai and arrested a few people who were betting on the online app.

Subsequently, the police registered a case at the Mohan Nagar police station and started interrogating the “betters”, as the police called them, about the application.

Based on these interrogations, the raids continued in the district of Durg, targeting people who were the creators and promoters of the Mahadev app, which, simply put, is an online platform to place and play bets.

Following investigations, in September 2022, the Chhattisgarh police arrested many who were in any way involved in running the Mahadev application in Raipur, Durg, Bilaspur and other districts of the state.

The Chhattisgarh police claimed that transactions worth 5,000 crores were estimated to have been carried out in a single year, in 2022, through the app across the country.

The interrogation of the arrested revealed that the Mahadev app was run from more than 30 centres, mostly in Chhattisgarh, and transactions worth over 200 crores were carried from each of these centres.

Investigating officers said until now 72 cases have been registered by the Chhattisgarh police and 449 suspects have been arrested from Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Mumbai and other parts of the country. So far 196 laptops, 885 mobiles and many electronic gadgets and more than 40 lakh cash have been seized.

Around 1000 bank accounts have also been frozen by the Chhattisgarh police; investigating officers said following the large scale crackdown, not a single backend office of the app is now functional.

How does Online Betting on the Mahadev app function?

The promoters of the app —Saurabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal -- are residents of Dubai where betting is legal and customers are mostly Indians.

Police claimed that anyone who wants to open a centre/ branch – on the lines of a franchise -- of the app needs to deposit about 20 lakh rupees after which they get authority as ‘admin’ to give unique IDs to customers.

These branches/ centres then recruit individuals/agents who meet other individuals and lure them as clients and assign them their own IDs. These agents receive 6% to 8% commission when clients put bets.

The agents, apart from offering an offline introduction to the app, also generate IDs through calls or messages. They do so by sending a “missed call” or message to specific numbers on Telegram and WhatsApp.

Officials claimed that like any other online account, an ID and password are shared with the individuals who then place bets.

Centre managers are required to have laptops, mobiles and wifi to avail of faster deposits and withdrawals.

Investigators said centre managers are given the task of luring unemployed youth in the age group of 20-25 to work at the centres and pay them 20-25,000 plus incentives like any other salesman and office workers are paid.

The app owners have also changed their tact after the police and ED launched investigations into the app – The app promoters and agents now have e-wallets and introduced QR-based payment systems since the police were tracking down bank accounts.

Word of mouth for quick cash has gotten the Mahadev app around 30-40 lakh customers and this helped them boost their presence and credibility.

Those who make bets make payments mostly through UPI-based payment systems. It might have made payments easier but also helped the police. “This has actually allowed police to track down those involved in placing bets,” investigating officers said.

Mahadev app handlers coaxed users to deposit money into savings bank accounts. Most of these accounts have turned out to be fake accounts opened either by luring poor people to give their Aadhar card and PAN card in lieu of 5000 or by acquiring photocopies of Aadhar card and PAN card fraudulently.

The ED investigation has revealed that police officer, assistant sub-inspector Chandra Bhushan Verma – the arrested policeman mentioned earlier -- was acting as the main liaison man on the ground for the app owners in Chhattisgarh.

Verma along with Satish Chandrakar received hefty payments every month via hawala from the Dubai-based promoters and were distributing the same to senior police officers and leaders who were politically connected.

“ASI Verma has admitted that the bribe payments were enhanced after some action was done by the police in May 2022. The bribes were enhanced to water down the cases, to include non-bailable offences, and to restrict prosecution up to local punters and to prevent future action on their operations. Further, arrested accused have specifically named high-ranking Officials connected to CMO who have received hefty kickbacks on a monthly/regular basis,” the ED stated.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    author-default-90x90

    State Correspondent for Chhattisgarh. Reports Maoism, Politics, Mining and important developments from the state. Covered all sorts of extremism in Central India. Reported from Madhya Pradesh for eight years.

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