Board warms to police probe
Kishen loses hospital cover
Mamata, Somen tracks meet
No break in betting
Calcutta weather

 
 
BOARD WARMS TO POLICE PROBE 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, April 13 
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is likely to formally ask Delhi police to “expand its match-fixing investigation.”

Sources said this is the “most favoured option” before the BCCI today. The dilly-dallying, therefore, will soon be a thing of the past.

Only last month’s five-match India versus South Africa one-day series, at home, is at present being probed.

Without spelling it out in as many words the BCCI, in effect, will be asking Delhi police to nail any player/official involved with match-fixing.

Yesterday, actor-businessman Kishen Kumar, who is being investigated, acknowledged “knowing” Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar.

Much more damaging, bookie Rajesh Kalra, whose arrest last Friday triggered cricket’s latest — and possibly biggest — scandal, has “in passing” talked about three current India players.

They have not been linked to the series under investigation, but Kalra has spoken about them all the same.

It is understood the BCCI’s “most favoured option” will be discussed at length on Tuesday, when its top brass meets International Cricket Council (ICC) president Jagmohan Dalmiya, in the city.

An announcement is expected that evening.

Dalmiya, who has convened the meeting and wields maximum influence within the BCCI, wasn’t available for comment. However, sources confirmed only a “police investigation” will get the desired result. It’s a significant shift in the BCCI’s line of thinking.

As of now, either re-opening the Justice (retd) Y.V. Chandrachud inquiry or instituing a fresh probe (by the BCCI itself) isn’t on the cards.

Nor, for that matter, is there a move to involve the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

“Delhi police are already on the job... And, so, they can straightaway expand the investigation. The BCCI will extend whatever cooperation is needed,” sources said.

[According to a PTI report from New Delhi, the government has asked the BCCI for a report on the “recent bad performance” of the Indian team.

“People talk about it. They have doubts in their minds... That match-fixing could be one of the reasons,” sports minister S.S. Dhindsa has been quoted as saying.

The BCCI must submit its report “within a week,” and that will be discussed at the April 27 meeting between the minister and “present and past captains and administrators.”]

“No Indian player/official has been linked to the probe into last month’s series. However, as allegations keep surfacing (of misdeeds in the past), let an investigative agency get into the picture,” the sources pointed out.

They remain assured a formal call to Delhi police will convince the rest of the world “there’s nothing to hide” even though no Indian player/official is being investigated.

The sources also believe the “fear-element” alone, triggered by a police probe, will have a bigger impact than an inquiry on the Chandrachud lines.

The BCCI’s latest approach has coincided with a candid letter to its president A.C. Muthiah from Nikhil Kumar, director-general of the elite National Security Guard and a former Delhi police commissioner.

A cricket aficionado who, as special secretary (home), coordinated security during Pakistan’s India visit last year, Kumar’s letter includes the following: “... the likelihood of an Indian connection is cause for much greater concern even if so far, it seems that only an Indian bookie is involved...

“While no Indian cricketer has been named in the on-going episode, we are not certain if none was involved earlier... The Chandrachud inquiry could find nothing of note mainly because it was only an inquiry and not an investigation...”

Delhi police should now take care of that.    


 
 
KISHEN LOSES HOSPITAL COVER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 13 
Actor Kishen Kumar’s arrest is imminent after the hospital in Noida, where he was admitted since the match-fixing scandal erupted, officially discharged him today.

Kumar’s dues were paid by his friends and relatives. Soon after, three sub-inspectors, along with a posse of Uttar Pradesh policemen, took charge of the third-floor hospital block to make the arrest.

The doctors stepped out early this afternoon and posed before television cameramen with the discharge certificate and the paid receipt showing all hospital bills had been cleared.

But the actor remained in his hospital cabin throughout the day as the police stood guard.

Though the investigators had not questioned him further, the police were on guard to ensure that their catch did not fly, given the enormous clout he enjoys in Delhi and Noida.    


 
 
MAMATA, SOMEN TRACKS MEET 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta April 13 
Sheathing swords, Somen Mitra and Mamata Banerjee today appeared on the same platform for the first time in four years to cobble together a mahajot (grand alliance) of anti-Left forces.

The two — whose quarrels led to the dismemberment of the state Congress — shared the dais at a railway function to explain the nuances of the alliance to cheering supporters of both parties.

Free of the tensions that have marked the relationship between leaders of the two parties till recently, today’s function — to commission a new train at Sealdah station — was a study in geniality.

Mitra, the former Pradesh Congress chief who had engineered the Trinamul leader’s ouster from the Congress, lavished praise on her, signalling that the state Congress now saw her as the most durable icon of anti-CPM movement in Bengal.

“Mamata is the only ray of hope for West Bengal — the symbol of anti-Left movement to those who are the victims of 24 years of Left Front misrule,” Mitra said, but was careful to add that he had no plans to float a new party.

“We want to take on the communists by remaining within the Congress. There is no question of forming a party,” he said.

Mitra, who was the function’s chief guest, said the feeling that there should be a one-to-one contest with the Left in Bengal has percolated to the grassroots. It will be difficult to go against popular will, he added.

The railway minister, he said, was capable of shaping a new Bengal and the rail budget showed that she was progressing in the right direction. “It is Mamata who has dug out pending railway projects from the freezer to implement them,” he said.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, a regular at Mamata’s functions since she became railway minister, was invited but did not turn up.

Though Mamata’s speech only harped on her ministry’s future plans, her body language showed her resolve to complete the grand alliance. In a sign of tact, she did not even sit down until Mitra arrived and had taken his seat.

Mitra was accompanied by PCC leader Manas Bhuniya and party MLA Nirmal Ghosh. Also present were Trinamul MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, MLA Shobhandeb Chattopadhyay and the party’s newly-elected Rajya Sabha member Jayanta Bhattacharya.

State Congress working president Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, who is in Delhi, said it was nice to know that Mitra and Mamata had buried their differences.

But sources close to Das Munshi said “there will not be any seal of approval from Sonia Gandhi” if a section of the Congress decides to “clamber on to Mamata’s train along with the BJP”.

State BJP spokesman Muzaffar Ahmed welcomed the developing Mitra-Mamata axis. “We welcome consolidation of anti-Left votes from any platform,” he said.    


 
 
NO BREAK IN BETTING 
 
 
FROM SUJAY GUPTA
 
Mumbai, April 13 
Jayanti (a man) Malad (the place where he stays) used the entire balance amount on his mobile Sim Card taking bets for the South Africa-Australia match yesterday. When this correspondent called him last night, Malad, shocked that his number had been revealed, said he was “just a cricket lover”.

“Can you talk for a little while?” “No, this is match day. And don’t call me on the mobile. There is no balance left on my cash card.” Malad wouldn’t reveal his surname either. Bookies here conceal their surnames and replace them with the area from where they operate. The city’s first major bookie was Vinod Chembur. (Chembur in central Mumbai is a betting hub and the home of several underworld dons like Chhota Shakeel). Jayanti has a namesake operating in Borivli called Jayanti Borivli.

Malad, sources in the bookie world revealed, was one of the 200 bookies in operation last night taking bets for the South Africa-Australia match. Calls made to a few numbers revealed that without a password, placing bets was out of question. “Who are you? I don’t know you,” one of them said. Only the constant ringing of phones in the background gave the game away.

It is evident that despite the uproar over the match-fixing scandal and Hansie Cronje’s admission, the betting fraternity in the city continues to operate in full swing. Mumbai police can do very little. Senior police inspector, social service branch, Sirish Inamdar, under whose branch “illegal gambling” falls, says: “This is not our priority. The branch deals with everything from husband-wife quarrels to listening to parents who want their daughters saved from lesbianism. Where is the time to catch bookies?”

Inamdar added: “We know about the betting business. But how much can we raid? Before the World Cup we conducted 21 raids and arrested about 100 people. They are out on bail again.”

It does not even look as if a clean-up at home is about to begin. Not from the Mumbai end — at least for the moment. Surprising, considering the city was supposedly the nucleus of the betting scandal and the hawala money, allegedly collected as an advance by actor Kishen Kumar from city-based financiers and bookies, was routed from here to the Channel and Cayman Islands.

By contrast, Delhi police managed to do much better. At the Taj Hotel where the cricket teams were staying, the police got printouts of phone calls made by the team members. According to a hotel source, Cronje made two calls to London during his stay from February 19 to 26. The police also got information on six bookies who were involved in arranging the funds to be paid for match-fixing.

Mumbai police, on the other hand, seem to be suffering from inertia.

Deputy commissioner, economic offences wing, Anant Shinde, when asked why Mumbai police had not made any progress on the case, said: “We have been having constant meetings. We are likely to question the bookies who were arrested last year and got bail.”    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 35.3°C (-1) Minimum: 26°C (+1) RAINFALL: Trace Relative humidity: Maximum: 92%, Minimum: 45% Today: Thundersquall with windspeed reaching 90 kmph, accompanied with hail, in the afternoon. Slight fall in day temperature. Sunset: 5.53 pm Sunrise: 5.20 am    
 

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