Fraud charge against Prabhakar
Cronje quartet on chargesheet
Pak makes assets list mandatory
Born with $100 IOU
Elderly couple murdered in city flat
Long road, Kunming to Calcutta
Calcutta weather

Lucknow, June 2 
When the woodwork is disturbed, the worms start crawling out. “Where have you disappeared with our money?” people of Haldwani, near Nainital in Uttar Pradesh, are asking Manoj Prabhakar.

In an FIR lodged at the Haldwani police station, Lalit Mohan and Kumari Bhavna have named the former Indian cricketer as the prime accused and alleged that he has duped “numerous innocent people” of close to Rs 5 crore, Rs 70,000 being their own.

According to Haldwani police, nearly 500 people had invested in APACE India Ltd, a finance company, of which Prabhakar was the managing director. “There is more than enough evidence against Prabhakar in this shameful scam and the only thing now left to do is to arrest him,” says D. P. Singh, station house officer at Haldwani.

Repeated attempts were made to contact the former all-rounder at his South Delhi residence without success.

Nainital’s senior superintendent of police Akhilesh Mehrotra said: “There are four FIRs against Prabhakar, two in Haldwani and two others in neighbouring places. Evidence with us shows his direct involvement in the finance scam.”

The cases against Prabhakar were filed in November when the company suddenly disappeared with around Rs 5 crore. Asked what took the police so long to react, a senior police official said: “Prabhakar is a big name with political connections here. The police were very wary at first. Second, the co-accused, Divya Nautiyal, who is the general manager of the firm, is the son of Shivanad Nautiyal, a former Uttar Pradesh minister. But with the recent controversy over match-fixing, the police felt investigations in this case might throw some more light on the bigger issue.”

The police claim more than 500 people had invested in the firm which had around 25 branches all over Uttar Pradesh.

“Prabhakar used to come here often,” says Sanjay Singh, sub-inspector, Haldwani. “He used to hold regular meetings at Hotel Arif Castle in Nainital and go around advertising for his firm,” Singh said.

Around October last year, the offices of APACE, which began operations in 1995, suddenly started closing down and soon Nautiyal disappeared.

The police raided the Lucknow office and sealed it. They claim to have collected incriminating documents against the former Test player. Some of the finance company’s offices in Haldwani and Nainital were ransacked by irate investors.

In her FIR, Kumari Bhavna, who was an accountant with APACE, says: “I have seen this (fraud) being perpetrated for a long time. I was myself threatened by the investors to reveal the whereabouts of Prabhakar and Nautiyal but I didn’t know they would abscond like this.”

Armed with what they are claiming to be “ample evidence” against the cricket crusader, the Haldwani and Nainital police are an excited lot. “It is now time for Prabhakar to face Haldwani’s bouncers,” they said.    

New Delhi, June 2 
Delhi police, who are expected to file the match-fix chargesheet by the end of the month, will limit the list of accused to four people: Hansie Cronje, actor Kishen Kumar, London-based businessman Sanjeev Chawla and go-between Rajesh Kalra.

Charges will not be pressed against the four South African cricketers named in the FIR — Pieter Strydom, Nicky Boje, Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams. Their names may come up if the police decide to file a supplementary chargesheet later.

Delhi police sources said they were omitting the four because their names were only mentioned in the conversation between Cronje and Chawla. There is no evidence to establish that they were recipients of the money that the bookies had allegedly passed on to Cronje.

The police, who are taking tips from the CBI on the chargesheet, will stick to the three charges they had mentioned in the FIR: cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy.

But the police are now certain that they will not be able to file the chargesheet before the end of this month, especially since they are yet to get responses to the letters rogatory sent to various countries, including Britain, for inquiries on the bank transactions of Cronje and Chawla.

The high court has already reminded the police that Kalra will complete 60 days in judicial custody on June 7. For offences that could lead to punishment of seven years or less, the chargesheet has to be filed within 60 days. For offences which may lead to a longer term, the chargesheet can be filed within 90 days.

The police say Kalra will have to be released on bail, but they will appeal for an extension of Kumar’s remand. The actor’s lawyers have argued that he should be freed on June 9, once Kalra gets bail.

But the police have pointed out that Kumar was arrested on April 28 and, therefore, his term will end only towards the end of June.    

Dhaka, June 2 
Unlike the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which has only been talking of a good many things, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has amended its code of conduct and made it mandatory for all international players to declare assets.

The PCB, of course, has already slapped match-fixing related life bans on former captain Salim Malik and Ata-ur Rehman — implementing the Justice Malik Muhammad Qayyum commisson’s top recommendation.

Speaking to The Telegraph this afternoon, PCB chairman Lt. General Tauqir Zia said declaration of assets is binding on officials as well — he has himself taken the lead. “The players will do the needful once they’re back home,” he added.

This will be an annual exercise, with records being maintained by the PCB.

General Zia confirmed that Justice Qayyum’s inquiry against Mushtaq Ahmed wasn’t complete — the fine is only an interim punishment. The PCB chairman, in town for the Asia Cup, also revealed that he has, in his possession, a “list of bookies”. He didn’t go into details.

The list, according to General Zia, has been compiled from different sources: The Ehtesaab (Accountability) Bureau, Justice Qayyum and non-institutional quarters. Any player found interacting with anybody on that blacklist will straightaway be booked.    

New Delhi, June 2 
India has earned two dubious distinctions within a space of three weeks: in mid-May, it became home to 1 billion people; today, it emerged as the tenth largest debtor nation in the world with an overall external debt of $ 99 billion till end-December 1999. This means that every new-born is in the hock for about $ 100 — a nativity liability that he probably will never be able to shake off in his lifetime despite his best wallet-pinching efforts.

The gloom-and-doom scenario is slightly reinforced by the fact that while population grew by 5.15 per cent from 949.9 million in 1997 to 998.9 million in 1999, the overall external debt rose by 5.91 per cent from $ 93.47 billion in 1997 to $99 billion at the end of last December.

But there’s hope yet: a status report prepared by the finance ministry shows that total external debt rose by just 1.3 per cent from $97.7 billion at the end of March 1999 to $ 99 billion by December. That signifies the government’s determination to hold external debt down to manageable levels.

But even as the government turns less profligate, there are no signals yet that Indians will show any restraint in their fertility levels. The predictions are that at the current rate of growth in population — and there is no reason to believe it will slack off — the population could rise to 1.16 billion by 2010.

The upshot: we might have many more mouths to feed, but our per capita debt liability should come down.

But to be fair, the government has managed to climb a few notches down the debt totem pole. In 1991, India was the third largest debtor nation after Brazil and Mexico; today, it is the tenth. India is currently classified as a moderately indebted country.

The status report also notes that external debt as a percentage of gross domestic product — which is a measure of a country’s economic strength — has declined to 22.3 per cent in December 1999 from 24.4 per cent in March 1998. The ratio had peaked at 41 per cent in 1992.

The government has also been careful in crafting its external debt management strategy. Short-term debt constitutes only $ 4.6 billion of the total external debt stock of $ 99 billion.

This means that the flow of “hot money” — cash that is funnelled into a country by the world’s most fickle investors who scoot at the first sign of trouble — has been severely restricted. The hot money flows had precipitated the crisis in Latin American economies in the eighties and the meltdown in south east Asia’s “tiger” economies in 1997.    

Calcutta, June 2 
An elderly couple was found murdered in their flat in east Calcutta nearly 24 hours after their death.

Amarnath Chatterjee, 69, a former civil engineer of Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT), and his wife Latika, 60, are believed to have been killed on Thursday night in the CIT housing complex at Bagmari.

The murder was discovered on Friday when two contractors, Dipen Biswas and Ujwal Dhar, who were known to the Chatterjees, paid a visit to their second floor flat around 1.30 pm.

They were alarmed when they found the front door unlocked and no response from the Chatterjees from inside the flat. As they pushed the door open, they saw Amarnath lying on the floor of the drawing room.

Their cries brought neighbours rushing. Inside, they found Latika lying in the bedroom.

According to Sumanta Thakur, a resident of the housing complex, the couple was staying there for the past 14 years.

Their son, Atindranath, an only child, a professional interior designer, stays in Salt Lake. Atindranath has been living apart from his parents after his marriage.

“Amarnath was engaged in construction work after his retirement,” Thakur added. According to neighbours, the couple was seen at 6.30 pm when they were returning from a neighbourhood shop where they had gone to buy sweets and snacks.

After returning to the flat, the Chatterjees had locked the door. A neighbour, P.K. Kundu, had knocked on their door around 9.30 pm and found no response.

Seeking to reconstruct the crime, the detectives reached the conclusion that the unknown assailants killed the couple between 7 pm and 9.30 pm.

The couple had not eaten the food they had bought. It was found intact on a table in the drawing room.

Amarnath’s throat was slit and his wife was throttled to death.

Investigators said the couple tried to resist the assailants, as the signs in the flat suggested. “The injury marks on their bodies also indicated that they tried to resist the assailants,” deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said.

The police concluded that the assailants were known to the Chatterjees. “Amarnath was very careful about opening the door. He never spoke to unknown persons who came to his flat at night,” a neighbour said.

Detectives, who carried out a search in the three-bedroom flat, did not find any trace of valuables having been stolen. “It does not appear to be a robbery-related murder,” Ghosh said.

Preliminary investigation revealed that revenge or personal gain might have been the motive for the murder. “We are now trying to find out why anyone might harbour such a motive,” he said.    

Kunming, June 2 
Sino-Indian relations have reached a “stage of criticality from where they are bound to progress with intensity and speed”, President K. R. Narayanan said today, making the last public remarks before winding up his six-day trip to China.

“This trip has been an intimate meeting of minds after so many years. Both China and India have advanced, China more than India, and in this new and objective historic situation we have an opportunity for the exchange of goods and ideas, President Narayanan said, emphasising the need to put “economic and technological content” into bilateral relations.

He was speaking to a group of experts on South Asia from the Yunan Academy of Social Sciences, which is at the core of the so-called Kunming Initiative, a non-governmental effort to dismantle trade barriers in the region and promote economic exchange between Yunan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and northeastern India.

The Kunming Initiative was launched at a regional economic conference hosted by the Yunan Academy of Social Sciences in August 1999. Delegates from China, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar had initialled a charter on promoting trade and commerce in the region at the end of the conference.

Kunming has both history and geography to support its case for being the hub of trade and commerce in the region. It used to be the busiest stopover on the old southern silk route. And if it is claiming to be the launchpad of a new trade revolution in the south China-Myanmar-Bangladesh-northeast-India region, its credentials are near impeccable. Not only is Kunming, like Dalian, a city where prosperity is on a triumphal march, it is also ideally located. Closer to Calcutta than Calcutta is to Delhi, and closer still to shuttered Myanmar and aspiring Bangladesh.

If there were direct flights available, we could get to Calcutta in less than two hours from where this despatch is being filed. And if we were to travel slightly back in time, we could even have driven into India, down the Stilwell Road, which now lies broken and interrupted by many political and ideological barriers.

The Yunan academicians, in fact, sounded almost desperate in the appeals to open up the region: repair the old roads and open them, promote tourism and trade, open direct air links to India. Speaker after speaker harped on the vibrant links of the past and pleaded for new initiatives for the future. “There was once not only a road between Kunming and Calcutta but also an oil pipeline,” one of them said, “it is urgent that we restore the links and give the people of the region a chance to develop. We should waste no time in rebuilding Sino-Indian passages.”

President Narayanan responded positively, if a little cautiously. “I am happy to be here at the start of the Kunming Initiative and hope it will become a very important factor in Sino-Indian relations. But it is important and crucial that the suggestions made today have the active support of our provincial and central governments,” he said, adding, “I recall that Chou En Lai and Jawaharlal Nehru had spoken of direct air and road links between our countries and I am glad that the idea has become a concrete proposal. But it will have to be dovetailed into our bilateral relations.”

The President flagged the point that the Kunming Initiative focused on bringing prosperity to the most backward regions in the countries involved. The catchment area of the Kunming Initiative spreads over more than two million square kilometres in China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and India and concerns a population of over 700 million people, most of them still among the poorest and least developed.

Underlining the need to make the Kunming Initiate a reality, the President said: “Governments will have to invest some seed money on the region to attract investments but the initiative has long-term implications not only for the economy but also peace and stability in the region and for bilateral relations between India and China.”    

Temperature: Max: 35.9°C (+1), Min: 28.2°C (+1) Relative Humidity: Maximum: 92% Minimum: 52% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of thundershowers towards afternoon or evening. Maximum temperature likely to be around 36°C. Sunset: 6.14 pm, Sunrise: 4.55 am    

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