Twist in Mahadev betting app tale as courier alleges frame-up

Asim Das, arrested by ED on 3 November with Rs 5.39 crore in cash, claims he was framed and his lawyer tells a Raipur court that his client never paid any money to any political leader

Representative image
Representative image

A.J. Prabal

Alleging a frame-up by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Asim Das, the alleged courier of money arrested by ED on 3 November, 2023 wrote on 20 November from Raipur Central Jail to the Director, ED denying allegations against him.

The letter was produced before a special court on Friday, 24 November by his lawyer, who moved an application to take the letter as part of the case record.

Das (38), a driver by profession, claims that he was forced to sign a statement in English, a language that he does not know. The letter denies ED’s press statement that he had confessed that the cash worth Rs 5.39 crore found in his possession was meant to be delivered to the Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel. The amount, he writes, was meant for him to start a construction business in Chhattisgarh.

Das admits to have visited Dubai twice in October this year. Shubham Soni, he claimed, was a childhood friend from Bhilai and had paid for his trips. He was asked by Soni to return to Raipur after a few days, with the promise that Soni would help him start a construction business. Soni also wanted Das to work for him in the state.

Das had landed at Raipur on the day he was arrested; and as instructed, he picked up a designated car parked at the parking lot of the airport and checked into the hotel he was asked to. Later he was asked over phone to go out to the car he had parked outside and wait for cash to be delivered to him. Once the bags with cash were delivered, he was asked to return to his room. ED officials arrived a while later and led him away.

The ED did not respond to the contents of the letter in court, stating that the investigation was still in progress and it was a ‘complex’ case. The court extended the judicial custody of Das for 14 more days till 10 December.

While Das was arrested by ED on 3 November, BJP released the  video statement of Soni on Sunday, 5 November in which he claimed to be the proprietor of the online betting app. He also alleged, without any seeming provocation, that he had till now paid Bhupesh Baghel and his advisor Vinod Verma a sum of Rs 508 crore.

Coming just before the first phase of polling in Chhattisgarh on 7 November, the timing of the arrest, the ED’s press statement and the video released by the BJP, alleged Baghel, were suspicious and part of a conspiracy to defame him and damage the electoral prospects of the Congress party. The letter by Asim Das appears to support the chief minister’s suspicions.

The Mahadev Online Betting App became popular during the pandemic and helped its promoters earn so much money that they moved to Dubai. In March, 2022 Chhattisgarh Police registered a case and began arresting people while the Enforcement Directorate registered a case in October, 2022.

The extravagant wedding of one of the promoters, Saurabh Chandrakar, in Dubai in February created ripples in Dubai and Mumbai. The three-day extravaganza is said to have cost Rs 200 crore, most of which was paid in cash according to a media report this week on engaging top event management companies, hiring private jets and paying for entertainers, lighting and decor.

The app, however, was finally banned in India by the union government on 6 November. Despite the ban in India, the app is believed to be still operational with the help of servers outside India. The Dubai Head office of the app is said to employ as many as 4000 people as ‘checkers’ according to the report in The Week.

While Saurabh Chandrakar, Ravi Uppal and Shubham Jain, all three from Bhilai, are the main accused and believed to be the king-pins, not much is known about Shubham Soni, though he is also said to be from Bhilai.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines