December 5, 2023 8:38 PM

A joke, says Chhattisgarh CM Baghel after ED claims Mahadev app promoters paid Rs 508 crore to him

RAIPUR: Four days before the first phase of assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) claimed on Friday night that its investigation has indicated that chief minister Bhupesh Baghel was “paid Rs 508 crore” by the promoters of the online betting platform, Mahadev Book App.
“Many startling allegations have come to light, suggesting that regular payments have been made in the past.So far, around Rs 508 crore has been paid byMahadev App promoters to Bhupesh Baghel, the chief minister of Chhattisgarh. These allegations are the subject of an ongoing investigation,” ED said in a statement, adding that further investigation is needed.
Reacting to the ED claim, CM Baghel remarked: “What can be a bigger joke than this?”
“You can force anyone by thrashing or pressurizing him to extract any statement naming the chief minister. What if I catch someone and force him to name the Prime Minister in a case? Does it mean that the Prime Minister needs to be questioned?” he said after returning to Patan, his constituency, from a day of campaigning.
“It is very easy to tarnish anyone’s reputation,” he added.
Earlier, Deputy CM T S Singhdeo had responded strongly to the allegations, saying, “The BJP finds itself losing elections, which is why such wild allegations are coming up.”
Asked about the ED’s claim that a suspect, Asim Das, who was arrested by the ED with over Rs 5.3 crore in cash, had made such a claim, Singhdeo told reporters, “This is just a claim made after money was seized. But there is no proof. Anybody can falsely accuse anyone.” Singhdeo also mentioned media reports of “money being seized from officers” and said, “The situation of an independent agency, like the ED, has deteriorated under the present government. The nation is watching how an independent agency is being undermined.”
According to the ED statement, a forensic examination of the phone recovered from Asim Das and an examination of an email sent by Shubam Soni, one of the key accused in the Mahadev probe, indicated such payments. The agency received “credible information” and conducted successful search operations on November 2 in the state, during which Rs 5.39 crore in cash was intercepted in the poll-bound state.
“The ED is investigating the Mahadev Book online betting app syndicate, in which promoters are operating remotely from abroad and running thousands of panels across India with the help of their friends and associates, who are mainly from Chhattisgarh and have earned proceeds of crime worth thousands of crores. ED has already arrested four accused persons and seized proceeds of crime worth more than Rs 450 crore. A prosecution complaint has been filed against 14 accused persons,” the statement said.
On November 2, the ED received intelligence indicating that a large amount of cash was being moved in Chhattisgarh by the promoters of the Mahadev app in relation to the assembly elections, scheduled for November 7 and 17. ED conducted searches at Hotel Triton in Raipur and another location in Bhilai and intercepted a cash courier, Asim Das, who was sent from the UAE to deliver a large amount of cash for the election expenses of the ruling Congress, the ED says.
The ED had recovered cash amounting to Rs 5.39 crore from his car and residence. According to the agency, Das admitted during interrogation that the seized funds were arranged by Mahadev app promoters to be delivered to a politician named ‘Baghel’ for the upcoming election expenses in Chhattisgarh. The ED also discovered some benami bank accounts of Mahadev app in which a balance of Rs 15.59 crore has been frozen. Subsequently, Das was arrested.
During further investigation, ED questioned and arrested a police constable, Bheem Yadav, after a probe revealed that in the last three years, Yadav had unauthorizedly traveled to Dubai, admittedly met Ravi Uppal and Saurabh Chandrakar, participated in the gala functions of Mahadev app, and his travel expenses were borne by Rapid Travels of Ahuja Brothers, a ‘money laundering’ and ticketing company of Mahadev app, the agency says.
According to the ED, he was the conduit to receive bribe money from Mahadev app promoters for the benefit of senior officers and politicians of Chhattisgarh. Both accused persons were produced before the PMLA Special Judge in Raipur, where ED sought their custodial interrogation to independently corroborate their startling admissions and to trace evidence of money laundering. The court has remanded them in ED custody for seven days.

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