While examining the intercepted conversations and call details of arrested bookies, investigators stumbled upon a Dubai number, which was verified as Dawood Ibrahim’s. In one conversation, a caller says, “Haan Bhai Us Se Baat Ho Gayi Hai, Tum Baat Kar lo Kaam ho Jayega. (Bhai I’ve spoken to him, give him a call, it should be done).”
Punjab Police is checking the CCTV footage of the May 9 match between Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab in Mohali. Signs that the racket was on in IPL were revealed last month itself when Ludhiana Police arrested eight bookies while betting on the match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers in Bangalore on April 13. Jalandhar Police raided a building at Tara Singh Avenue, where bets on the match between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata were being placed on May 8. Delhi Police is looking at live footage of matches played on April 11, 14, 17, 20, 22 and 27 to see evidence of any spot fixing. Delhi Police officers will reach Hyderabad on Sunday. “In the wake of the scandal, we will also take a fresh look into the possibility of the organisers being part it,” said a senior cop. The rot has set in deep and wide. On May 12, 11 bookies were nabbed while accepting bets for the Kolkata vs Bangalore match. On May 14, police arrested two for taking bets on the ongoing match between Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers. On May 15, three were held while accepting bets on a Kolkata-Pune match.
The Wrong Signs
After Sreesanth threw in the infamous towel following sustained quizzing, police are minutely watching video details of other matches for more signals: rotating the wrist watch before a ball, pulling the tee shirt up and down, wasting time trying to set the field and removing a chain or a locket. Chennai police are investigating possible links with an elected body of bookies having connections with similar associations in other metros. The Haryana and Punjab Police arrested 31 bookies this IPL season. Talking to Express, Senior Superintendent of Police, SAS Nagar (Mohali), Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, said, “We have got the CCTV footage from the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Chandigarh Airport and Hotel Marriot in Sector 35 where both teams were staying. We are also examining the footage from May 7 to May 9, as these players came on May 7 to the city. We are trying to see who met who.” They are also checking the cell tower locations from where the players made calls. Meanwhile, the BCCI has denied that IPL is fixed, at the same time calling for the culprits to be punished. Most senior members of the IPL board were missing in action. The ICC’s anti-corruption unit failed to detect spot-fixing in IPL. After news of spot fixing and arrest of Sreesanth and others surfaced, Sports Minister Jitendra Singh called up IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla and “impressed upon him to take urgent steps to put in place a mechanism to prevent such unethical activities and ensure clean sports in the country”.
Ajit Chandila revealed that he was lured into the racket by his friend and fellow cricketer Manish, who plays for the Vidarbha. Chandila reportedly told investigators that Babu, another Vidarbha player, is also actively involved and both had asked him to identify more targets for bookies in return for huge sums of money. Sources said Manish could be picked up soon for questioning. Chandila- who works for Air India - was selected by Rajasthan Royals for the 5th edition of IPL for Rs 30 lakh. Of the eight matches he played in the current IPL, three are being probed by Delhi Police while five are being investigated by Special Cell sleuths to see if his performance was fixed or he acted as conduit for other players.
Value Added Fixing
Apart from fixing minimum runs in a particular spell, bookies were also betting on no balls and wide balls - called ‘value-added fixing’ - since such mistakes in fast paced matches would be beyond suspicion. “Instead of an over, any two balls were fixed for no balls or wide balls, or one each. A high-profile T20 match could easily make bookies Rs 800 to Rs 900 crore,” a senior Delhi Police official said.
A National Network
The Chennai bookies, arrested on Friday, also ran a betting association of their own complete with office bearers “They formed the association only to facilitate better betting and ensure that their network was kept under the radar. They had a president, a general secretary and other elected office bearers,” said a senior police officer. “Such networks may be interlinked with those in other metros.” The Chennai bookies would offload their huge collections to their parent network in Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mumbai and Delhi. The kingpin of the Chennai scene, whom the cops refused to name, fled to South Africa. A few other big time bookies also went underground before police came knocking, raising suspicions of a leak in official quarters.
“The links and conversation between the bookies at home and in Karachi and Dubai suggest that a syndicate of high net-worth bookies was controlled by Noor and Qasim based in Dubai,” say cops. Many bookies with links to Dubai have reportedly shifted their base to Goa and Gujarat from Mumbai last year. Chandlia was the coordinator of this betting circuit. On being asked about the involvement of Sunil Ramchandani alias Sunil Dubai - a close Dawood aide - in the syndicate and his link to Chandila, a senior official said Chandila was in touch with Qasim and another unidentified person. He said Chandila’s link with Sunil Dubai is crucial to prove the Dawood link. “So far we can say that the arrested bookies were acting on the direction of the mafia in Karachi and Dubai. Sunil Dubai is a wanted man and his involvement in T20 games was exposed last year. The Mumbai crime branch has files on him and we will coordinate with them to establish the Chandila link,” he said. Surprisingly Gurgaon has emerged as the new high-profile hub of “outsourced’’ underworld activities. CCTV footage of Gurgaon malls is under the microscope to detect suspicious activities of the three arrested cricketers.
Snail’s Pace Action
Meanwhile, the controversy has brought back the focus on the delayed Sports Bill, which aims at bringing professionalism into sports management. The Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee is currently studying the Bill. Though, cricket does not come under the preview of the Sports Ministry or the proposed Sports Bill, the current unsavoury controversy could propel the demands to put India’s richest sport under a regulatory framework. The Sports Bill has provisions to make elections compulsory for sports bodies to bring in transparency and good governance. The Mudgal committee is studying whether a separate sports election commission, an ethics committee and even a dispute resolution tribunal could be set up to deal with sports-related issues and violations. Jitendra Singh stressed the need to follow ethical practices in cricket. He emphasised that strict action will be taken against all those found guilty to serve as a deterrent. “The first is a common code of ethics, the second is an independent body to conduct elections and the third is a dispute resolution mechanism. None of these are possible without legislation,” said the minister. It’s not as though the BCCI was completely oblivious of spot fixing. A senior BCCI official, while admitting its lassitude, said “We were not complacent or idle. We were proactive to handing out punishments. According to the gravity of their crime, we have punished those players,” he said. The fact that the BCCI’s anti-corruption unit failed despite working meticulously to bust fixing, “only shows that there were loopholes in the system, which is not foolproof”. The BCCI has not pressed the panic button as yet, but senior members accepted that they weren’t sharp enough to this situation. “What has happened has happened. We cannot say what we have done was enough. In future, we will take sufficient steps to prevent this from happening,” he said.
That would be the key point of discussion when the working committee meets on Sunday, and unless the BCCI takes a hard stand, IPL’s stock would only plummet further.