Saturday, April 1, 2023

ED recovers Rs 17 cr from Kolkata-based gaming app operator

The Enforcement Directorate on Saturday seized about Rs 17 crore in cash after it raided the promoters of a Kolkata-based mobile gaming app company as part of a money-laundering investigation.
A photograph released by the federal agency showed bundles of seized Rs 500 currency notes along with a few in the denomination of Rs 2,000 and Rs 200 stacked together on a bed.
The agency pressed in five note-counting machines and brought bank staff to ascertain the exact value of the cash haul. The searches were conducted at half-a-dozen locations of the gaming app named ‘E-Nuggets’ and its promoter identified as Aamir Khan and others, the Enforcement Directorate said in a statement.
CRPF personnel escorted the ED teams to locations like Garden Reach, Park Street and Mominpur areas in and around the West Bengal capital, among others.
So far, about Rs 17 crore in cash has been found at the premises and the counting is still in progress, official sources said.
Links of some politicians with the gaming app business are under the scanner, sources in the agency said. The raids sparked a fresh war of words between the ruling TMC in West Bengal and the BJP.
Senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) minister and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim said the TMC has nothing to do with the businessman concerned but alleged that the Centre wanted to drive away investors from the state by spreading the fear of “harassment” by federal agencies.
The BJP rejected the charge, saying the raids were only against unscrupulous businessmen, and asked the TMC leader if he had anything to hide.
Hakim wondered if the ED’s investigations into money laundering cases are restricted to states ruled by non-BJP parties 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 7000 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 said.
“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.
Reacting to Hakim’s comments, BJP state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya claimed that such statements come from fear as people are aware of the unholy nexus 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 has anything to hide?” Bhattacharya added.
The money laundering case stems from an FIR filed by the Kolkata Police against the company and its promoters in February 2021.
This FIR was registered at the Park Street Police Station based on a complaint filed by the Federal Bank authorities before a court in Kolkata, the ED said.
Aamir Khan, son of businessman Nesar Ahmed Khan, launched the mobile gaming application E-Nuggets that was designed to defraud the public, the agency alleged.
“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.
The ED said that after collecting a “handsome amount” from the public, withdrawal from the said app was stopped all of a sudden under one pretext or the other – such as system upgradation and investigation by law enforcement agencies.
Later, all data, including profile information, was wiped off the app servers. It was then the users understood the ploy, the ED said.
Official sources said the agency is investigating if this app and its operators had links with other ‘Chinese controlled’ apps that had been issuing loans at exorbitant rates to gullible persons. In many cases, the loan takers ended their lives after they were threatened by these loan operators to pay up.


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