On Sunday, a team of local police managed to bust a massive gambling den operating in Lonavala, Maharashtra. The cops arrested a total of 26 professional gamblers all hailing from Gujarat and Rajasthan, while 4 others fled the spot and took cover in the dark.
The Lonavala gambling den was operating at twin bungalows in the by-lanes of Lonavala city on early Sunday. The crackdown happened for hours and the cops also seized cash worth INR 1,19,990, five vehicles including a minibus and an SUV and tokens that were being used in place of real money.
This is the first time such a raid has taken place in the region and further investigation into the operations revealed that the 30 accused had been seemingly running the gambling dens via cashless transactions. An hour before the raid, around Saturday midnight, cops received a tip-off about the illegal operations, but no definite place was shared with them, making it tougher to find the exact spot.
However, the police team, headed by police inspector BR Patil and police sub-inspector Mrugdeep Gaikwad began searching for fishy activities in the lanes of the city and finally they zeroed in on a twin bungalow property at Tugarli where they heard loud voices, lights, and multiple vehicles parked outside.
The main organiser of the den, 62-year old Dinesh Shah, was found using social media extensively to manage the operations, especially WhatsApp groups to contact regular gamblers. The man had entered the bungalow under the guise of a tourist and had not moved out since.
BR Patil spoke about the raid to the press saying, “The group moved around like tourists, but their purpose was this cashless betting den. Some arrived on Friday night via flights either to Pune or Mumbai, and some on Saturday morning. We also arrested the organiser, who had managed everything, including flight tickets for them all. All the accused are professional gamblers and organise intense sessions in different cities, for which bungalows are rented. They play using tokens inscribed in Gujarati. When asked, we were told the value of each coin is fixed at between Rs 2,000 and Rs 10,000. A record is kept and after the game is done, money acquired/lost is calculated and transferred to each other’s bank accounts; sometimes cash is paid. We also seized a substantial stack of pink receipts bearing names of members and the amounts to be paid or received.”
The 26 people caught were arrested and produced before the Judicial Magistrate Court at Wadgaon Maval on Sunday afternoon. They were represented by advocates Seoul Shah and Hrishikesh Khandelwal. The police submitted to the court a statement that read, “To arrest the four absconding suspects and investigate if the owner of the rented house is part of the racket, custodial interrogation of all accused is necessary.” However, the court granted the accused magisterial custody and were released on bail later.
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