The Enforcement Directorate claimed on Sunday that the primary accused in the fraud gaming app case, in which it seized Rs 17.32 crore after searching the promoters of a Kolkata-based mobile gaming firm as part of a money laundering probe, is untraceable, news agency ANI reported.
According to government sources, the agency is probing the “political linkages” of the app marketers in order to determine the true recipients of this money, even as it investigates the likely channelling of monies spent by naive players here through certain “Chinese-controlled” businesses, PTI reported.
The central agency shared a photo of many bundles of Rs 500 currency notes, as well as those in the denominations of Rs 2,000, Rs 200, and Rs 100, placed on a bed with the ED acronym.
According to the sources, the cash was discovered from a property with the address ‘F 7. N A Khan’ in Kolkata’s Garden Reach neighbourhood.
In an issued stated, ED stated: “Aamir Khan, the main accused was not found and is not traceable. Cash amounting to Rs 17.32 Cr has been found and seized from the premises during the search. Further investigation is under progress.”
Aamir Khan, the main accused was not found and is not traceable. Cash amounting to Rs 17.32 Cr has been found and seized from the premises during the search. Further investigation is under progress: ED
— ANI (@ANI)
To determine the actual worth of the cash collection, agency officials summoned at least five note-counting machines and bank personnel. A vehicle later transported the cash, which had been stored and sealed in enormous steel trunks, to be deposited in a bank.
The searches were carried out at a half-dozen locations associated with the gaming app ‘E-Nuggets,’ as well as those associated with Khan and others.
CRPF soldiers escorted the ED teams in and around the West Bengal metropolis, including Garden Reach, Park Street, and Mominpur.
In August, the ED confiscated around Rs 50 crore in cash, as well as jewellery and gold, after raiding properties associated with Arpita Mukherjee, an accused assistant of former West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee.
The agency arrested both of them.
TMC Vs BJP
The latest raids provoked a new spat between West Bengal’s ruling TMC and the BJP.
Firhad Hakim, a senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) minister and Kolkata Mayor, stated his party had nothing to do with the businessman in question, but that the Centre was attempting to drive away investors from the state by instilling fear of “harassment” by federal authorities.
The BJP denied the accusation, claiming that the searches were solely conducted against unethical businesspeople, and questioned the TMC leader if he had anything to hide.
Hakim asked if the ED’s investigations into money laundering cases are limited to non-BJP-ruled areas like West Bengal.
“If Rs 7 crore has been unearthed, the source of that money should certainly be investigated. But what about Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi who had swindled more than Rs 7,000 crore? Why did their wrongdoing not come to light before they left (India)? There are businessmen in BJP-ruled states and they might also have amassed large amounts of money,” he was quoted by PTI in its report.
“Does that mean that the raids will be directed selectively against businessmen of non-BJP ruled states like Bengal? It is for dissuading investors from coming to Bengal in the fear of harassment by central agencies,” the senior TMC leader alleged.
In response to Hakim’s remarks, BJP state spokesman Samik Bhattacharya stated that such assertions are made out of fear since people are aware of the “unholy relationship” between money launderers and the TMC.
“The ED raid is not directed against the business community in general. It is only against unscrupulous businessmen. Does the former state transport minister have anything to hide?” Bhattacharya added.
Money Laundering Case
The money laundering case arises from a FIR filed in February 2021 by the Kolkata Police against the firm and its promoters.
According to the ED, this FIR was lodged at the Park Street police station in response to a complaint submitted by Federal Bank officials in a Kolkata court.
According to the agency, Aamir Khan, the son of billionaire Nesar Ahmed Khan, established the mobile game application E-Nuggets with the intent of defrauding the public.
“During the initial period, the users were rewarded with a commission and the balance in the wallet could be withdrawn hassle-free. This provided initial confidence among users, and they started investing bigger amounts for a greater percentage of commission and a greater number of purchase orders,” it said, PTI reported.
The ED stated that after collecting a “handsome quantity” from the public, withdrawal from the app was abruptly halted under various pretexts such as system upgrades and investigations by law enforcement organisations.
Later, all data on the app servers, including profile information, was deleted. The users realised the ruse at that point, according to the ED.
According to official sources, the agency is examining if this app and its owners were linked to other ‘Chinese controlled’ applications that were giving loans at excessive rates to naive people. In several cases, loan takers committed suicide after being threatened by loan operators to pay up.
The operations of online gaming companies are being investigated by government officials. The Income-Tax agency raided a Mumbai-based organisation engaged in online cricket betting and gambling in February.
According to Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman Nitin Gupta, the government discovered that about 8 million (80 lakh) gamers were enrolled with this gaming service, and the gross revenues detected in this instance were Rs 58,000 crore over the previous three years.
Soon after the searches, the CBDT issued a statement stating that the government discovered a “cash” turnover of Rs 600 crore produced by the firm in six months.
According to government sources, all of the transactions and revenues in the Mumbai case were not disclosed to the tax authorities.
(With Inputs From Agencies)