India’s financial crime fighting agency 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 Enforcement Directorate (ED) said that it had started an investigation into the companies following complaints that the platforms made unauthorised deductions from the accounts of online game users.
ED has conducted searches in 3 premises pertaining to M/s Coda Payments India Pvt Ltd in connection with an ongoing investigation under PMLA, 2002 against M/s Coda Payments India Pvt. Ltd and ‘Garena Free Fire’ mobile game & freezed bank account balance of Rs. 68.53 Crore.
— ED (@dir_ed) September 27, 2022
Coda enables cross-border payments for games and other digital products, including Garena Free Fire, Teen Patti Gold, and Call of Duty. The ED also froze all Coda’s accounts, which had a total balance of Rs. 685.3 million.
Coda Payments and Sea did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.
Earlier this year, Reuters, citing four sources, reported that Singapore had raised concerns with India about its ban of popular gaming app Free Fire, owned by technology group Sea, in the first sign of diplomatic intervention after the move spooked investors.
After the ban, the market value of the New York-listed Southeast Asian firm dropped by $16 billion (roughly Rs. 1,30,400 crore) in a single day, and investors were reportedly worried India could extend it to Sea’s e-commerce app, Shopee, which was recently launched in the country at the time.
The sources, who included two Indian government officials, had stated that Singapore had asked Indian authorities why the app had been targeted in a widening crackdown on Chinese apps, even though Sea has its headquarters in the wealthy city state.
Singapore had queried if the app “was banned unintentionally,” one of the Indian officials aware of the diplomatic initiative had told Reuters.
The concerns, raised with India’s external affairs ministry, were routed to the information technology (IT) department which ordered the ban, the two Indian sources told Reuters at the time.
Garena Free Fire was one of 54 apps that were banned by the government over links to China, as they allegedly posed a threat to the country’s security. The apps that were banned included Garena Free Fire, Tencent’s Xriver, and NetEase’s Onmyoji Arena. So far, the government has blocked nearly 300 apps in the country since border tensions erupted with China in May 2020.
© Thomson Reuters 2022