Explainer: Mahadev betting app's lengthening shadow over Bollywood

IANS Photo

Mumbai, April 29 (IANS) Actor Sahil Khan, who was arrested in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh, this past Saturday, in connection with the Mahadev betting app controversy, became the 17th Bollywood celebrity/influencer to come under the scanner of central and state agencies for their alleged involvement with the now-discredited app.

The 'Style' and 'Excuse Me' actor's detention came days after Tamannaah Bhatia, who is awaiting the release of her Tamil film 'Aranmanai 4', was summoned by the cyber cell of the Maharashtra Police for her alleged involvement in the promotion of a subsidiary app.

These two back-to-back developments set off conversations among Netizens on whether Bollywood celebrities/influencers were getting sucked into a dark world in the same way as some of their predecessors were linked with the underworld, especially the fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim.

Last October, Ranbir Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor, who shared the screen in the 2023 hit film 'Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar', were called in for questioning by the Enforcement Directorate for receiving payments to promote the betting app. They were asked to provide explain the source of the payments.

Likewise, comedy superstar Kapil Sharma's name also popped up during the investigations. He was called in by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) after he attended the wedding of Saurabh Chandrakar, the Mahadev betting app founder, in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.

The wedding, which reportedly saw Rs 200 crore being lavished, according to media reports, had first brought Chandrakar and his operations under the ED's scanner. Kapil Sharma's presence there brought back memories of Bollywood stars attending events organised by the members of Dawood Ibrahim's gang in the UAE.

Actresses Hina Khan and Huma Qureshi, too, were summoned by the central agency to understand their involvement in the app, including the money that they received for promoting it. The ED suspects that these payments could be the proceeds of illegal betting.

Besides quizzing these Bollywood stars, the Maharashtra Police Cyber Cell has already recorded statements of rapper Badshah and the managers of actors Sanjay Dutt and Jacqueline Fernandez in the snowballing case.

The Mahadev app, which offers betting channels in live sports, including cricket, tennis and badminton, as well as poker and card games, is alleged to have established a rigged system in which players always lost their money, whereas the company made huge gains of up to Rs 5,000 crore.

The owners of the app are being investigated for allegedly laundering money through a layered web of benami bank accounts and having links with Pakistani hawala operators as well as several local politicians and businessmen.