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ED raids Coda offices in money laundering probe involving Free Fire

These raids were conducted on the basis of multiple FIRs registered against Coda Payments India Pvt Ltd and 'Garena Free Fire' mobile game (Representational image). (ANI)Premium
These raids were conducted on the basis of multiple FIRs registered against Coda Payments India Pvt Ltd and 'Garena Free Fire' mobile game (Representational image). (ANI)

  • The raids were conducted in connection with an ongoing investigation under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 against Coda Payments India Pvt Ltd and 'Garena Free Fire' mobile game

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday searched the premises of Coda Payments India as part of a money laundering probe into the fintech firm and Sea Ltd's Free Fire. The ED also froze all Coda's accounts, which had a total balance of 68.53 crore.

These raids were conducted on the basis of multiple FIRs registered against Coda Payments India Pvt Ltd and 'Garena Free Fire' mobile game.

"It is alleged that Coda Payments India Pvt. Ltd. which facilitates and collects payments from end users (mostly unsuspecting children) of games like Garena Free Fire, Teen Patti Gold, Call of Duty etc, in the name of monetising and generating revenue for web and game publishers, is resorting to unauthorized deductions from the end users of these games in the name of selling digital tokens to end users which are used by the end users to enhance their playing experience in the game," the ED said in a statement.

It is further alleged that the game developers like Garena and Coda Payments India Pvt Ltd have intentionally designed the payment mechanism in such a way that after the first successful transaction, a notification pops up which seeks permission to make subsequent payments without any authentication.

As the children are not aware of these technical terms, they just click on the notification in a routine manner and end up giving the authorization to make all future payments without any further authentication, said the ED.

"Garena which publishes 'Free Fire' does not have a company or presence in India and is operated from Singapore," ED further said.

During the course of the search, ED said, it has been found that Coda Payments India Pvt Ltd was incorporated only to act as an agent of Coda Payments Singapore Pte Ltd for collecting money from the users and remitting it to the parent company.

"Coda Payments India Pvt. Ltd. has been collecting money in the name of sale of digital content and remitting it to its parent company in Singapore in the name of sale and purchase of digital content, however, the entire operations of Codashop which sells the tokens are being managed by Coda Singapore only and there is no actual sale or purchase of digital content by CPIPL," the agency said.

"It is only a conduit to remit funds outside India. To date the amount collected by CPIPL is Rs. 2,850 crores, out of which, 2,265 crore has been remitted outside India after retaining a certain percentage of revenue for the payment of taxes and nominal profits."

To prevent the company from alienating the Proceeds of Crime which it has collected through unauthorized deductions from the accounts of unsuspecting customers, all the bank accounts, merchant Ids in Payment gateways and Fixed Deposits of CPIPL with a balance as of the date of 68.53 crore have been frozen under PMLA, 2002," the agency said.

The country's financial crime fighting agency said that it had started a probe into the firms following complaints that the platforms made unauthorised deductions from the accounts of online game users.

Coda enables cross-border payments for games and other digital products, including Garena Free Fire, Teen Patti Gold, and Call of Duty.

India blocked Free Fire in February as part of a crackdown on 54 apps it said it believed were sending user data to servers in China. Singapore later intervened in the matter, asking Indian authorities why Free Fire was targeted even though Sea has its headquarters in the wealthy city-state, but it remains blocked.

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