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Probe suggests Mahadev App promoters gave Rs 508 crore to Bhupesh Baghel, it's matter of investigation: ED

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Bhupesh Baghel Chhattishgarh Congress

Bhupesh Baghel (File photo)

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate Friday claimed that a forensic analysis and a statement made by a 'cash courier' have led to "startling allegations" that Mahadev betting app promoters paid about Rs 508 crore to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel so far, and that "these are subject matter of investigation".

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The alleged agent, 38-year-old Asim Das, has been arrested by the agency in Raipur after it recovered Rs 5.39 crore cash from him. He was allegedly sent by the app promoters from the UAE "especially, to deliver large amount of cash for electioneering expenses of the ruling Congress Party".

"Asim Das has admitted that the seized funds were arranged by the Mahadev app promoters to be delivered to one politician 'Baghel' for upcoming election expenses in state of Chhattisgarh," the agency alleged in a statement.

"From the questioning of Das and from forensic examination of the phone recovered from him apart from examination of an email sent by Shubam Soni (one of the high ranking accused of Mahadev network) many startling allegations have come forth, namely, that regular payments have been made in the past and so far around Rs 508 crore have been paid by Mahadev app promoters to Bhupesh Baghel, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh," it said.

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"These are subject matter of investigation," the agency said.

In its remand application filed in the court seeking custody of Das and police constable Bhim Yadav (41), the ED said the allegations against Baghel "need to be independently corroborated by this Directorate".

It also shared with the remand paper, the transcript of an audio clip recovered from the iPhone of Das where Soni is "heard specifically tasking Mr Asim Das to urgently go to Raipur to supply funds to 'Baghel' for expenses in the coming elections of Chhattisgarh".

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The ED has earlier said the alleged illegal funds generated by the app were shared as bribes to politicians and bureaucrats in the state even as it has summoned many celebrities and Bollywood actors for questioning on the mode of payment and their links with the online betting platform.

The ED said it intercepted Das on Thursday on the basis of an intelligence input that a large amount of cash is being moved in Chhattisgarh by the promoters of Mahadev app for the assembly elections scheduled to be held on November 7 and November 17.

The cash was seized from an SUV parked in Hotel Triton and a location at Bhillai in Durg district of the state.

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Baghel has alleged in the past that central agencies like the ED were working at the behest of the BJP-led central government to target the opposition parties and their leaders.

The agency said it has also "discovered" some benami bank accounts of Mahadev app in which Rs 15.59 crore are kept and they have been frozen under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act PMLA).

Constable Bhim Yadav has also been arrested during this seizure, it said.

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Yadav, the ED claimed, unauthorisedly travelled to Dubai over the last three years and admittedly met Mahadev app promoters Ravi Uppal and Sourabh Chandrakar, participated in the gala functions of Mahadev app.  His travel expenses were borne by Rapid Travels of Ahuja Brothers- a money laundering and ticketing company of Mahadev app, the ED claimed.

"He was the conduit to receive bribe money from Mahadev app promoters for the benefit of senior officers and politicians of Chhattisgarh," the agency said.

Both Das and Yadav were produced before a special PMLA court in Raipur on Friday and the court sent them to seven days ED custody.

A charge sheet was recently filed by the ED in the Mahadev app case where a total of 14 accused were named including main promoters Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal.

"Large scale hawala operations are done to siphon off the proceeds of betting to off-shore accounts. Large expenditure in cash is also being done in India for advertising of betting websites and self-aggrandisement necessary to attract new Users and franchise (panel) seekers," the agency had earlier said.

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