NEW DELHI: Seven suspected cricket punters were on Saturday booked by the CBI even as the investigating agency began a countrywide investigation by simultaneously carrying out searches at seven locations across Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Jodhpur in connection with alleged match-fixing in the 2019 Indian Premier League.
While there have been allegations of widespread match-fixing in a few of the previous editions of IPL, this is the first time that the CBI has actually booked punters suspected of betting with the aim to turn the outcome of the intensely competitive, limited-overs cricket matches.
CBI sources were tightlipped when asked whether they suspect the involvement of any cricketer from among the teams that took part in the 2019 series. "That depends on the evolving evidence," a senior CBI officer said.
Agency sources, however, said that investigating officers were vigorously pursuing leads that indicated some of the matches were fixed "based on inputs" the Indian punters received from Pakistan.
According to two FIRs filed on Saturday, CBI investigators received information that a "network of individuals involved in cricket betting were influencing the outcome of IPL matches based on tips that they received from Pakistan".
The CBI has named one Dileep Kumar, based in Rohini, Delhi, and Gurram Vasu and Gurram Satish based in Hyderabad in its first FIR as accused, while Sajjan Singh, Prabhu Lal Meena, Ram Avtar and Amit Kumar Sharma, all from Rajasthan, have been named in the second.
"The information reveals that this network of individuals was involved in cricket betting during IPL matches held in 2019," the CBI FIRs said. The racket allegedly operating from Rajasthan was continuing since 2010 while another was on since 2013. The networks operating on the basis of inputs from Pakistan were also cheating the public by "inducing them to bet".
The racketeers involved in betting possessed bank accounts ('mule accounts' in betting parlance) based on fake identities and KYC documents generated in connivance with yet-to-be-identified bank officials, the FIRs said.
CBI sources said they have evidence that these bank accounts were opened for transactions by submitting forged papers and information such as multiple dates of birth and without due diligence by bank officials. The accounts in the name of a Rajasthan-based punter show three different dates of birth in the documents submitted to UCO Bank.
"A part of the money received from the general public in India on account of such betting activities is also being shared with their associates based in foreign countries using hawala transactions," the FIRs alleged.
The CBI claimed to have worked out the money trail and how the punters raked in huge amounts by putting in place effective betting mechanisms.
The agency found that Dileep operated a number of bank accounts in which domestic cash deposits worth over Rs 43 lakh were made since 2013 defying all "economic rationale".
In the six bank accounts operated by Gurram Satish cash deposits worth Rs 4.55 crore (domestic) and Rs 3.05 lakh (foreign) were made during 2012-20 and in the case of Gurram Vasu the amount was Rs 5.37 crore during the period.
The CBI alleged that the maximum cash transactions in these accounts were of pan-India nature which substantiates the allegation of these unusual financial transactions being linked with cricket betting and other criminal activities, CBI sources said.
Small networks of punters linked to each other operated in their respective circles but were linked to each other in the larger scheme of things. In the Rajasthan racket, the CBI found that the bettors allegedly shared part of the money received from the general public from betting activities with their associates based in foreign countries using hawala transactions while the modus operandi remained similar for the Delhi-Hyderabad group.
In the Rajasthan group, the CBI alleged that accused Singh, Meena, Ram Avtar and Sharma were in contact with a Pakistani suspect who contacted them and some yet-to-be-identified persons in India through a Pakistani Number +9233222226666.
"The transactions in the accounts are circular in nature. The summation of the suspicious amount credited in the account of Sajjan Singh is valued at more than Rs.33.23 lakh -- from FY2010-11 to FY 2019-20.