Sourabh Chandrakar is an Indian businessman and the promoter of the Mahadev online betting app who became infamous in 2023 for his involvement in a money laundering scheme linked to the app.
Sourabh Chandrakar hails from Bhilai, Chhattisgarh. He attended St. Thomas College, Bhilai. Later, he moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Height (approx.): 5′ 9″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Chandrakar is the son of a former employee of the Bhilai Municipal Corporation.
Wife & Children
In February 2023, he got married to Harshita in Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE. The extravagant Rs 200 crore wedding made headlines as Chandrakar hired private jets to ferry family members from Nagpur to the UAE and invited celebrities like Ranbir Kapoor, Atif Aslam, Vishal Dadlani, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Tiger Shroff, Ali Asgar, Sunny Leone, Krisi Kharbanda, Elli AvrRam, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Bharti Singh, Krusha Abhishek, and Bhagyashree.
He follows Hinduism.
In 2023, Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal were investigated for their involvement in a money laundering scheme linked to the Mahadev online betting app. The two had humble beginnings and were small business owners in Chhattisgarh. Talking about Chandrakar in an interview, his acquaintance Rakesh said,
His father used to work in Nagar Nigam. You can imagine the financial status of the family. He was as average as it can get. Nobody, not even he, would have imagined this kind of money coming his way.”
Reportedly, Chandrakar used to work as a salesman at a clothing store in Bhilai, earning Rs 10,000 a month. Later on, he opened a juice stand called ‘Juice Factory’ in Nehru Nagar, Bhilai.
Saurabh Chandrakar would often hang out at Sooraj Mobile at the Akashganga complex in Bhilai. He was a cricket enthusiast and his journey into the world of betting began with the sport. While talking about Chandrakar in an interview, his acquaintance Mahesh said,
My mobile shop earlier used to be down this road, right next to where he (Chandrakar) used to sit. For 8-9 months, we would interact daily till the lockdown when his Mahadev App IDs started selling like hot cakes.”
Meanwhile, Uppal owned a tire shop. Some sources state that Uppal came from an upper-middle-class family in Bhilai and used to take contracts for installing borewells and ran an oil-related business. Uppal had been involved in betting for more than ten years when he founded the app. Uppal had left Bhilai several years ago, but every time he visited his hometown, he would meet up with friends, mostly local gamblers, at a paan stall in the Akash Ganga market. It was there that he met Chandrakar. Together, they began their journey as local bookies, targeting people at the hyper-local level. In 2018, they moved to Dubai, where they established the Mahadev Online Betting App.
The Rise of Mahadev Online Betting App
The betting app was an umbrella syndicate that provided an online platform for illegal betting websites to enrol new users, create user IDs, and engage in money laundering through a complex network of Benami bank accounts. Users could bet in a range of activities — from election results to games such as poker, card games and cricket. The Covid-19 pandemic gave the owners a chance to grow their racket. The duo hired operators and agents to get customers, taking advantage of the lockdown during which people were forced to work from home or were idle.
While Chandrakar and Uppal managed operations from Dubai, the person representing the app in Bhilai was Raja Gupta, also known as Raj. A school dropout, Raj worked as a salesman at a clothing store in the Akash Ganga market, earning Rs 1,600 a month until 2016. Later, he engaged in betting on cricket. Raj had a job at a mobile shop. As he went on his rounds to collect money for mobile chargers and headphones, he would get traders in the market to place their bets. Raj’s lifestyle underwent a drastic makeover after he joined hands with Chandrakar. He bought an i20 car and an iPhone, wore gold and silver ornaments, and had a flashy presence on social media, leading many to believe that he was the owner of the betting app. Reportedly, Raj was last seen in Bhilai in 2021. According to sources from the ED and the police, Raj’s alleged role was to recruit young individuals from Chhattisgarh and take them to Dubai, where they sold customer login IDs to operators for several lakhs. While Chandrakar and Uppal kept the lion’s share of profits, punters such as Raj earned around 20 percent. Police said like Raj, there are several other youngsters in Bhilai who collaborated with Chandrakar and Uppal, and whose fortunes changed overnight. Many of these 150-odd youngsters — from UP, Bihar, MP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand — were taken to Dubai for training in the back-end operations — from issuing IDs to potential customers to handling the money flow. While some stayed on, the others were sent back to India to handle operations there. One of those who went to Dubai said,
I desperately wanted money to repay my debts so I went to Dubai in December 2021. There were around 70 of us from Chhattisgarh and we stayed in a villa in Dubai for six months. I was paid Rs 40,000 a month, of which I sent Rs 10,000 to my family. They paid for our food and stay, and we got to roam around Dubai.”
Chandrakar and Uppal conducted their gambling operation from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Targeting a public who wants easy money, the betting racket soon flourished and extended its reach into countries such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. They established a network of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 panel operators across India who would assist bettors in creating accounts on the app, placing bets, and handling financial transactions. The syndicate franchised Panels or Branches to their known associates on a 70-30 profit ratio. Large-scale hawala operations were done to siphon off the proceeds of betting to off-shore accounts. The racket was pushed through advertisements and paid endorsements by celebrities like Huma Qureshi and Hina Khan. The duo grew to a point where it monopolised India’s illegal offshore gambling and went on to acquire brands like FairPlay, Reddy Anna and Lotus365. They even launched new brands under the name ‘Betbhai’ and Ambani Book’.
Alleged Affiliation With Dawood Ibrahim’s D-company
In 2023, the ED discovered that Chandrakar and Uppal had affiliations with the D-company, an organized crime syndicate founded and controlled by Indian gangster and drug lord Dawood Ibrahim. Reportedly, after the success of the Mahadev Book app, Chandrakar came in contact with some influential people in the UAE, who were close to Kaskar. Impressed by Chandrakar and Uppal’s earnings from the betting app, Kaskar asked the duo to develop a similar betting app for Pakistan. In 2021, Chandrakar launched a betting app named ‘Kheloyar’ in Pakistan with the protection of Dawood Ibrahim and support from the ISI. The app worked in India too. Several Bollywood celebrities, including Govinda, Randeep Hooda, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Daisy Shah, Rashmi Desai, and Shefali Jariwala, endorsed the Pakistan-based app through video clips.
The Kheloyar gaming app was also one of the sponsors for the Lanka Premier League (LPL), Sri Lanka’s T20 cricket tournament, along with a few other illegal betting platforms in July 2023. Sources also said that Kaskar had gifted Chandrakar and Uppal a villa in Saudi Arabia.
The ED’s Probe into Alleged Scam
The Mahadev app first came under the scanner of the Chhattisgarh Police after a man, who was a regular on the platform, died by suicide in Durg district. During the investigation, it was revealed that he placed bets online. Then, racket came into the spotlight during Chandrakar’s extravagant Rs. 200 crore wedding in the UAE in February 2023. Various Bollywood celebrities came under the ED’s investigation, either for participating in Chandrakar’s wedding or endorsing the controversial app. Thereafter, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) special court at Raipur issued non-bailable warrants and lookout circulars for Chandrakar and Uppal. In 2023, fourteen people, including the promoters of the online betting app, Chandrakar and Uppal, were named as accused in the chargesheet by the ED. The chargesheet was filed at a special PMLA court in Raipur. ED issued a Look Out Circular (LoC) against Chandrakar and Uppal. According to the probe agency, the proceeds of the crime could be around Rs 6,000 crores.
On 16 October 2023, Mrugank Mishra (25), a key accused in the scam, was detained at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai by security personnel on his arrival from Dubai. Mishra was accused of helping the promoters of the app in opening hundreds of dubious bank accounts to divert money generated by the scam. His custody was later taken by a police team from Rajasthan, where he faced a cheating and forgery case related to the Mahadev app.