ED carries out search operations under provisions of FEMA at 25 premises, including locations in AP

This was in relation to the investigation being carried out against foreign-registered online gaming companies and websites operating in India.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 25, 2023 | 9:11 PM Updated May 25, 2023 | 9:11 PM

The Enforcement Directorate carried out search-and-seize operations at 25 locations in multiple states. (Supplied)

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has carried out search-and-seizure operations under provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) at 25 premises, including 11 in Delhi, seven in Gujarat, four in Maharashtra, two in Madhya Pradesh, and one in Andhra Pradesh.

This was in relation to the investigation being carried out against foreign-registered online gaming companies and websites operating in India.

Modus operandi

These online gaming companies and websites are registered in small island countries like Curaçao, Malta, and Cyprus. However, all of them are linked to Indian bank accounts opened in the name of proxy persons who have no links to online gaming activity.

The amount collected from the general public through gaming websites is then routed through multiple bank accounts and, finally, remitted out of India by misdeclaring the purpose of remittances against the import of services/goods.

Remittances out of the income from racing/riding etc., or any other hobby are not allowed under the provisions of FEMA.

Also Read: ED registers FEMA case against BBC India for violations

Result of the searches

In this connection, searches were conducted at premises linked to several hawala operators, including that of Ashish Kakkar, Neeraj Bedi, Arjun Ashwinbhai Adhikari, Abhijeet Khot, and people/entities associated with them, according to a press release.

Searches have resulted in the seizure of several incriminating documents and electronic evidences related to the case and revealing an interesting modus adopted by them to evade the investigative agencies.

Hundreds of companies have been opened by key individuals in the name of their employees in order to send remittances to the tune of ₹4,000 crore, approximately, in the guise of payments for import of goods and services.

Several PAN cards, Aadhaar cards used to create such firms, mobiles used to operate bank accounts of these firms, and office stamps were also found and seized.

Also Read: ED attaches crores of assets of Joy Alukkas owner in FEMA case

Scamming remotely 

Key individuals were found using international virtual mobile numbers for instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal etc., and using pseudonyms such as Pablo, John, Watson etc., to mask their actual identity.

To escape from investigating agencies, they are using remote-based servers/laptops, which are being used through remote access apps like AnyDesk, Team Viewer etc.

Seizures made during the searches include incriminating documents and electronic devices used to establish foreign outward remittances of thousands of crores collected from the public through gaming websites, ₹19.55 lakh in cash, and USD 2,695, while 55 bank accounts of fake firms have been frozen.

Further investigation is in progress.

Also Read: The dark side of online gaming: Why it is not all fun and games