Who is the former top Indian cricketer named by bookie Sanjeev Chawla during his interrogation by sleuths in London?
And who was the Indian bookie splurging loads of cash at a Las Vegas casino earlier this month after obtaining cash through hawala?
Crucial information pertaining to match-fixing is slowly trickling out from the woodwork even as Delhi Police gears up to interrogate a host of former cricketers for their alleged involvement in match-fixing following the extradition of top bookie Chawla from London.
Chawla, whose case will be heard at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on 3 October, has told his interrogators that spot-fixing (which replaced match-fixing) was rampant with huge stakes of money at play.
Last week, his interrogators conveyed to the Delhi Police how a top Indian bookie splurged Rs 5 crore every day for a four-day gig at one of the biggest casinos at Las Vegas, home to gambling in the US. "The bookie, based in South India, organised cash through hawala and had a great time during his stay in Vegas," a top Delhi Police source said.
Chawla, considered the biggest cog in the "fixing wheel" by cops in Delhi and Mumbai, could be headed for India next month, requests for his extradition by the Ministry of External Affairs already accepted by the British government through its foreign office.
"Chawla also named a top Indian cricketer, now retired but we will not be able to reveal the name," a top source in the Crime Branch of Delhi Police said in a brief interview. Investigators in London have agreed to share crucial details they collected from Chawla with the help of Interpol and associates of the bookie.
Officers of the Crime Branch said they are in touch with their counterparts in Mumbai, Chennai and a few other cities high on the betting radar and would be interrogating a large number of alleged bookies and former cricketers.
Interrogators of Chawla said the bookie also shed some light on the recent West Indies-Pakistan match at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi and how the Caribbean batting in the third and final T20 was a total give away of what Chawla described as "institutionalised fixing of international cricket".
Chawla explained the entire fixing operandi and how it worked in this particular match, Delhi Police officials who are in touch with his interrogators in London said. In the end overs, with decent wickets in hand, the hard-hitting Caribbean batsmen like Samuels and Pollard — known for hitting huge sixes — played dots and took singles, not even attempting to hit a boundary. "He (Chawla) explained how the team — a T20 World Cup winner few months ago — folded up at an abysmal low of 103/5 in 20 overs, failing miserably for the third consecutive time and how the matches looked fixed because nothing in cricket or in logic explained the way the West Indies batted in the three match series." Chawla explained to his interrogators — who, in turn, explained the same to the counterparts in Delhi.
"Anyone betting on the Caribbean cricketers will expect the team to play its natural game and accelerate at least from 16 overs onward with five wickets in hand and place bets accordingly. But strangely, WI did just the opposite. They scored only 26 runs in last four overs and 28 runs in last five overs with five wickets still in hand. Nothing in cricket or in logic can explain West Indian batting," said Atul Kumar, an author and exponent of modern day sports betting and cricket spot-fixing. Cops of Delhi Police say they will work on multiple leads when Chawla returns to India and that interrogations will happen in both cases — the 2000 India-South Africa series and the 2013 IPL spot-fixing.
"A lot depends on what Chawla talks about. The Delhi Police will interrogate him once he is in our custody. But it will be a special team working on him and his cases," says Kailash Vij, a top officer of Delhi Police who probed the 2013 IPL case. Once Chawla returns, he will be interrogated by the office of the Special Commissioner of Police, currently headed by additional director general Taj Hassan.
"That case of 2000 was never closed, an extradition means the case will be reopened and interrogations start," adds Vij. The IPL case, which named a number of bookies and a handful of cricketers — including S Sreesanth — is now being heard in the Delhi High Court after a lower court rejected the same.
Former Indian cricketer Kirti Azad, who has recently petitioned the Prime Minister’s Office to take a re-look into the 2013 IPL Spot Fixing scandal, said he was “half-confident” about Chawla’s confessions.
"Bookies talk a lot, unless he offers some genuine leads to the cops, this case will also fall through. But the fact that he is coming to India and will be housed in Tihar Jail is good news. At least he will be open to interrogations," says Azad.
Delhi Police has already informed UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) — through India’s External Affairs Ministry — that Chawla would be housed in Tihar Jail, Delhi’s maximum security prison that has, on previous occasions, housed a host of corporate captains and top politicians and maintains high boarding and lodging standards. Chawla had raised several questions about security arrangements and facilities in Indian jails and urged cops in Britain to seek details about their arrangements and the jail he will be lodged.
Chawla has been told by the Ministry of External Affairs that he will be provided a special cell with special guards.
Chawla was arrested on 14 June, 2016, following New Delhi’s extradition request. He faces charges of fixing cricket matches between India and South Africa in 2000. The Delhi Police, in July 2013, had filed a chargesheet in the scandal, naming Hansie Cronje who died in a plane crash in June 2002. Chawla and Cronje were named in a 70-page chargesheet by the crime branch for "fixing matches played between India and South Africa from 16 February, 2000 to 20 March, 2000 in India.
The first major match-fixing scandal broke in April 2000, when Delhi Police intercepted a conversation between Chawla and Cronje, in which the South Africa captain had accepted money to lose matches. Chawla has been also accused of offering money to two England players in August 1999.