There’s been a meteoric rise in betting apps in India in recent years. The increasing popularity of cricket, football, and kabaddi, coupled with the allure of potential winnings, has attracted a vast user base to these platforms. Additionally, the convenience of digital payments and the ability to bet on a wide range of events in real-time have further contributed to the surge in the usage of betting apps.

However, this growth has also raised concerns about addiction, underage gambling, and regulatory challenges. Multiple investigations regarding these betting apps are ongoing, especially the Mahadev one. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Mumbai Police Crime Branch has arrested actor and fitness influencer Sahil Khan from Chhattisgarh’s Jagdalpur district in the Mahadev betting app case.

Lakhmi Gautam, Joint Commissioner (JCP), Mumbai Crime Branch, revealed, “He had been on the run for 40 hours, from Goa to Karnataka, then Hyderabad, and finally caught in Jagdalpur. We will produce him before a local court.” Sahil Khan was then produced in a court at Dadar which remanded him to police custody till May 1.

Also Read: In A Viral Video, Vaishnavi Shukla Calls For #BoycottBoAt

The Case

The nexus between Sahil Khan and the Mahadev betting app case stems from allegations of his involvement in promoting online betting platforms, particularly the ‘Khiladi Book’ linked to Mahadev. An FIR was originally registered by the Matunga Police in November 2023, based on a complaint lodged by social activist Prakash Bankar.

He alleged that several web portals were designed for online betting/gambling on cricket, football, tennis, and card games like “teen patti” etc. The FIR and the Bombay High Court (HC) stated he was “directly connected with the online betting application.” His arrest comes days after the HC dismissed the pre-arrest bail plea filed by Khan on Wednesday.

According to reports in IANS, authorities mentioned that Sahil Khan, as a fitness expert and YouTuber, allegedly put together celebrity gatherings with the intention of promoting the app and enticing more individuals to use it.

Sahil Khan actor fitness influencer arrest mahadev betting app case the lion book scam bombay high court mumbai cyber cell

The case is under simultaneous investigation by the Enforcement Directorate. Following the crackdown on various betting and gaming apps by different agencies, the case brought several other Bollywood actors under scrutiny.

Sahil’s Defense

Earlier, the SIT had called Sahil Khan and three others for questioning in December 2023. The fitness influencer did not show up but continued to engage on social media during that period. The “Style” actor, one of several accused named in the FIR, was transferred to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) for investigation.

He argued in his petition that as a celebrity, he “merely acted as a brand promoter”, relying on an Influencer Engagement Agreement dated February 21, 2022, with M/s. Isports247, a sports management company, for promotion of the brand ‘The Lion Book’. Sahil denied direct association with the betting platform.

Sahil explained that his contract was for 24 months, with a monthly payment of 3 lakhs for posting promotional videos on his social media. However, the police said he was the partner in Lotus App 247. After being brought to Mumbai, the actor said, “I believe in the judiciary of the country.”

The Judgement

A single-judge bench of Justice SV Kotwal, disagreed to Sahil’s defense. “The entire operation is illegal. A huge amount is involved. Fictitious bank accounts are created. Different fake SIM cards are used in big numbers. The applicant is directly connected with the App ‘The Lion Book247,” Justice Kotwal said in his order, dismissing the pre-arrest bail plea.

The bench also noted that EOW’s investigation revealed around 67 betting websites, each controlled from foreign destinations.The probe found that more than 2,000 bogus SIM cards, obtained on bogus documents, were used to lure gullible people to place bets on various games. Over 1,700 bank accounts opened using fake documents were used to collect and withdraw money, which was subsequently routed through Hawala channels and cryptocurrency,” it added.

The police claimed that Sahil Khan was not a mere brand promoter but was directly connected with the ‘The Lion Book’ app. He has put up a list of the apps in which he is a partner in his Instagram bio – @proteinsmartnoodles, @myfitness, @hunkwaterworld, @hunkwatersuper. It was reported that he later removed ‘The Lion Book’ from the list.

The police also claimed that the agreement was relied on deliberately to mislead the authorities to project as if the actor was merely a ‘Brand Ambassador’ and to hide that he was a co-owner of ‘The Lion Book.

Who Is Sahil Khan?

Known for his roles in “Style” and “Excuse Me“, Sahil Khan initially gained fame through a musical video for Stereo Nation’s “Nachange Sari Raat.” The actor was last seen in 2010’s Aladin. He is set to make his Bollywood comeback with a project alongside Sharman Joshi. Apart from acting, Sahil has transitioned into fitness advocacy which has garnered him accolades for promoting health awareness in Mumbai.

He now focuses on fitness, having founded Divine Nutrition, which offers fitness supplements. His personal life has also attracted attention, with a notable marriage to Negar Khan in 2003 and subsequent divorce in 2005. Recently, Sahil Khan introduced his new partner Milena as his ‘wife’ on social media. He also revealed that they got engaged and legally married in Russia.

The Mahadev betting app case, estimated at Rs 15,000 crore, signifies a substantial illegal transaction network under investigation by Mumbai Police. Sahil Khan’s connection to ‘The Lion Book App‘ within this network prompted his arrest, signalling a broader crackdown on financial irregularities in Maharashtra. Will he be able to prove his minimal involvement or will bigger secrets get revealed? We will have to wait and watch.