Let the boys with fancy gladiatorial names and vaudeville costumes take a break. Bring on the men in khaki who ran a race tighter than the most humdinger of an IPL match.
It may be a moment of glory for Mumbai police now but it was a summer of anguish a year ago when the force realised that they had been beaten to the draw by a whisker by the team from Delhi.
The Mumbai crime branch officials had been meticulously investigating illegal betting in IPL and quietly nabbing suspects in May last year. But Delhi police stole the west’s thunder with dramatic arrests of three cricketers on the intervening night of May 15-16 on the charge of spot-fixing in IPL matches.
“About two to three weeks before (last year’s) IPL, we had begun trawling some big bookies. We were taking note of their phone chatter when we came by a large amount of data — it revealed the entire scam,” Himanshu Roy, the then joint commissioner of police (crime), Mumbai, told The Telegraph.
Around 1am on May 16, a little after Delhi police had picked up IPL players S. Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila, Roy received the news of the arrests.
He was in his office with his team, interrogating Ramesh Vyas, an alleged bookie the Mumbai crime branch had picked up on May 14 in connection with illegal betting in the IPL.
Roy’s team had raided an illegal telephone exchange run by Vyas in Mumbai’s Kalbadevi area. The exchange was connecting calls among bookies in India, Pakistan and Dubai, police sources said.
Vyas’s phone conversations, which were being monitored, had already revealed his links with Vindoo, wrestler Dara Singh’s son, who has emerged as the prime link between Gurunath Meiyappan, the son-in-law of BCCI boss N. Srinivasan, and the bookies.
Vindoo’s phone and his lavish lifestyle had also been put under observation after Vyas’s detention.
Among the other big fish were Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf, an alleged key player in the betting and fixing scandal, and some other bookie kingpins like Pawan and Sanjay Jaipur.
Given the sensitive position of the investigations, Mumbai police had decided to keep the detention of Vyas under wraps so as to keep the news from spreading and alerting other suspects.
Vyas’s detention, along with that of a few other bookies, set in motion not just an avalanche of skeletons from the IPL cupboards but also a battle between the police forces of Mumbai and Delhi.
Within hours of Vyas’s detention, the top bookies in Mumbai and Delhi smelt trouble and switched off all their phones.
“It is a drill they follow internally to throw police off their trail. We were prepared for it — it did not upset our plans much,” said a Mumbai police source.
But it did change the plans of Delhi police. Like Mumbai police, the Delhi sleuths had also put some bookies in their city under watch ahead of the IPL.
While monitoring the phone calls, the Delhi cops had come across suggestions of involvement of IPL players in the spot-fixing racket.
When the cellphone chatter of the bookies they were monitoring went dead following Vyas’s detention in Mumbai on May 14, the Delhi police special cell decided to act swiftly and get their hands on the cricketers.
On the intervening night of May 15-16, when the news of the arrests by Delhi police trickled in, Mumbai police were not just dismayed by the rain on their parade. They were also worried about its impact on their investigation.
“Suddenly, it was out in the open. The Delhi police officers did not keep us in the loop, and, in such an operation, no one else would have done so either. But the fact remains that they acted in haste and the massive media blitz it generated alerted our suspects. We have phone records showing how Vindoo immediately alerted Rauf and Sanjay and Pawan Jaipur and they fled the country within hours,” said a senior officer of the Mumbai team that investigated the case. But opinion differs on this count.
Rushing in to score a few brownie points for themselves after the Delhi police operation had left them red-faced, Mumbai police rushed on the morning of May 16 to raid the hotel rooms of Sreesanth and his cousin-cum-manager Jiju.
“In their rush to fly away with the cricketers before we stepped in, the Delhi police team had forgotten to do the most obvious thing — search their rooms and seize their stuff,” said a Mumbai police official.
On May 17, Mumbai police announced Vyas’s arrest and homed in on Vindoo and began questioning him.
This time, in their rush to pocket credit, it was Mumbai police that slipped up, according to Delhi police. By the time Vindoo was formally arrested on May 21, the other alleged key players, including Rauf, had fled, Delhi police claimed — a charge denied by Mumbai police who say the suspects had already escaped after the cricketers’ arrest.
After the flash knockdown by Delhi police in the first bout, the Mumbai sleuths worked their way back into the game.
The trail began snaking towards what now looks like the glass house of Indian cricket.
“As we delved deep, it was clear that Meiyappan was no ‘cricket enthusiast’ betting on his team — he was, in fact, betting against his own team on several occasions and through Vindoo was passing on information about injuries, team details, field placements and strategy to bookies like Jaipur,” said a Mumbai police source.
Meiyappan went underground for a while when summoned by Mumbai police for questioning.
“He later relented and came in a private jet with a Man Friday-cum-butler. While Gurunath was held in the crime branch lockup, his butler stayed in a five-star hotel,” recounted an officer.
Gurunath, said police officers who interrogated him, had vehemently denied the charges initially.
“I would not exactly say that he exhibited bluster, but he did ride a high horse for nearly two-and-a-half hours after the interrogation began. We let him run around for a while and then we replayed his phone calls with Vindoo. He went all quiet and listened for a minute or two and then suddenly collapsed into a chair with his head in his hands. He went completely quiet after that,” said another officer.
It is these phone records that were later submitted along with the Mudgal committee report to the Supreme Court in the “sealed envelope” — which, if and when made public, could change the face of Indian cricket.
Not that Delhi police are feeling like men who won the battle but lost the war. Delhi police are seeking solace in the fact that the Supreme Court has proposed that the Rajasthan Royals should also sit out this IPL season. The Rajasthan trophy goes to Delhi police.
Delhi special commissioner of police S.N. Srivastava told The Telegraph that his team was awaiting the Supreme Court’s directions to conduct further investigations into the alleged role of actress Shilpa Shetty and her husband Raj Kundra, the Rajasthan Royals’ co-owners.
Delhi police had questioned Kundra for over 12 hours last year and claimed that he had confessed to having lost Rs 1 crore. Another bookie has told Delhi police that Shilpa Shetty placed a lone bet during last year’s IPL, which was played in Jaipur.
“We had shared evidence with the BCCI and provided them with the names of suspected players along with audio-visual proof of three IPL matches which were manipulated,” Srivastava said.
The special commissioner said they had sought inputs from former BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale and IPL CEO Sundar Raman on the tripartite agreement among the BCCI, the IPL teams and the players.
Delhi police claimed they had also alerted the cricket board regarding the involvement of several players in the racket soon after the arrest of three cricketers.
“Instead of helping us in the probe and providing more leads, the BCCI authorities told us they had ordered an internal inquiry. But later they did not share the inquiry report with us which could have helped us in the probe,” a senior Delhi police officer said.
“We had also alerted them about the involvement of several other players in the league and also provided them with explosive details of the modus operandi of the bookies and suspected players. We are very keen to take the probe to its logical conclusion and need the BCCI’s help for that. We are awaiting directives from the apex court,” the officer added.
Unlike Mumbai police who are only probing the betting charges, Delhi police have been investigating those involved in alleged spot-fixing with the help of bookies who were part of the crime syndicates of Dawood Ibrahim.
“Our probe was more concerned with the larger dimension of the issue as it involved the alleged role of Dawood Ibrahim in the racket. If we were to act against those involved in betting, we would have to arrest several lakh people in Delhi alone,” Srivastava said.
On the alleged “D Company” link, Mumbai police have been accused of dragging their feet.
Nilay Dutta, the Assam Cricket Association member on the Supreme Court-commissioned Mudgal committee which probed the spot-fixing scandal, claimed in his report that Mumbai police did not pursue the underworld angle — specifically, the alleged links of Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel to the case.
But Mumbai police’s Roy rejected the charges. “We have voice samples of Dawood — they are 10 years old. The audio clips of phone conversations we had do point to an underworld hand but we do not have anything to establish a Dawood link so far. And if Delhi police have his voice clip as evidence, they have not approached us yet to try and match them,” Roy said.
But the biggest challenge before both police forces is to come up with prosecution-worthy evidence that incontrovertibly links any capped player with fixing.
THE INDIA CEMENTS CONNECTION
Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for a petitioner, told the Supreme Court on Thursday that Chennai Super Kings captain M.S. Dhoni (in picture) was also the vice-president of India Cements, which owns the IPL team.
Salve said that besides Dhoni, the chief financial officer of India Cements and its internal auditor were also working for BCCI as its financial officer and internal auditor, suggesting there was a conflict of interest.
The following information is based on public documents, an affidavit filed by ousted IPL chief Lalit Modi and conversations this newspaper’s correspondents had with industry sources and BCCI officials.
N. Srinivasan, the BCCI chief, is the vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements, which reported a revenue of Rs 4,613 crore and profit of Rs 163.55 crore in 2012-13. The promoter group, of which Srinivasan is a part, holds 28.23 per cent shares in India Cements. In his personal capacity, Srinivasan holds 0.14 per cent shares in the company.
Dhoni’s name does not figure in the 2013 annual report of India Cements. But that does not disprove or prove anything. Other than the board of directors, it is not mandatory to name other senior officials in an annual report.
Prasanna Kannan and P.B. Srinivasan are the two individuals who were close to N. Srinivasan and had definitive roles in the cement company as well as the BCCI. Neither Kannan nor the two Srinivasans was available for comment.
Kannan was an employee of India Cements while P.B. Srinivasan was an internal auditor of the company. Kannan doubled as the chief financial officer of the Indian Premier League (IPL) while Srinivasan was IPL’s financial consultant.
The finance department of the IPL, which was headed by Kannan, also reported to the office of the BCCI treasurer.
The IPL’s finance department dealt with and approved all contracts and other actions that had financial implications.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Some of the names that were in the news when the IPL scandal broke and their current status. Not all are accused. Some are investigators and one was interviewed by police for information
Arrested on May 15, 2013, the capped player spent nearly a month in custody and got bail on June 10. On December 12, he married girlfriend Bhuvaneswari Shekhawat, a jewellery designer from Jaipur, at the Guruvayoor temple in Kerala. Going by his Twitter account, the marriage seems to have “calmed” the “angry young man”. He has been taking lessons from the British equanimity in the Second World War — a post on December 20 says: “Keep calm and carry on.”
Has been visiting temples with his wife and attending charity events. On February 5, he met Bharat Ratna Professor C.N.R. Rao on board a flight and posted pictures with the comment “honoured to have met u sir... amazing human..gr8 experience.. Thnks a lot”.
Banned for life by the BCCI, he spends most of his time in Rajasthan and occasionally visits Kochi where his parents live. Has played a match with a local team in Kochi
Arrested on the intervening night of May15 and 16, the first class cricketer was granted bail to marry his girlfriend of eight years on June 2. Went back to jail and was released with Sreesanth. Banned for life from playing cricket by the BCCI in September. Has been able to keep his job at Air India but is suspended.
Last seen on March 22, this year, dining with wife Neha
Sambary at the Peshawri restaurant at ITC Maratha in Mumbai
He was the last of the three players to get bail. Arrested on the intervening night of May 15 and 16, he was released in September. Used to represent Air India but was suspended after the arrest.
The resident of a Faridabad village is now hardly seen in public. “He has become a pariah now and does not come anywhere near the cricket field. Nobody wants to be seen with him. He now lives an unassuming life with his wife Sarita and parents,” said a Delhi cricketer who was once close to him
Vindoo Dara Singh
Arrested on May 21 and got bail on June 4. He went on to finish shooting for a Punjabi film, Love You Soniye, starring television actor Karanvir Singh Bohra and Bohra’s wife VJ Teejay Sidhu.
Five days after Mumbai police announced that they had been able to match the voice samples of Vindoo and Gurunath Meiyappan to tapped phone conversations between the two, Vindoo was making merry at a high-profile party on March 23, this year. Vindoo was at producer Karim Morani’s Juhu beach bungalow to celebrate his birthday at a party where Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Farah Khan and celebrity photographer Dabboo Ratnani were some of the other guests
N. Srinivasan’s son-in-law arrested on May 24 and granted bail on June 4. Remains peripherally involved in his father’s real estate business. When not dealing with the betting case, Gurunath is busy pursuing his twin passions of golf and yachting. Relations with Srinivasan are strained but depends on him for legal and moral support
SHILPA SHETTY AND RAJ KUNDRA
Raj Kundra was summoned to Delhi for interrogation in June 2013 and his wife Shilpa Shetty, who was named in the scandal, went into a shell. She had put on hold plans for a big first birthday party for their son in May, after the players’ arrests. When she moved out of the Kundra bungalow in Juhu to her parents’ home, there were rumours of trouble in the marriage. On her birthday on June 8, Raj wished his wife on Twitter and apologised for “all this nonsense...”. Eventually everything worked out and they celebrated their fourth marriage anniversary with a glittering do in November. From launching products, walking the ramp and judging dance reality show Nach Baliye 6, Shilpa has had an eventful year. Raj wrote a novel, How Not to Make Money, in October. But the couple stayed away from the IPL auction. Raj is producing a television show — Soney ka Dil — on the lines of Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate that Shilpa will anchor. On Thursday, Shilpa was attending a party in Delhi with the cast and crew of Dishkiyaaoon, a film she and her husband have produced
The captain of Rajasthan Royals when three of his players, S. Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, were arrested in May. In July, he was questioned about these players by a special cell of Delhi police.
Dravid announced his retirement from all forms of cricket in May 2013. However, he remains mentor of Rajasthan Royals and attended the IPL auction held in Bangalore last month. Sunil Gavaskar had recently proposed Dravid as coach of the Indian team, but he said he wasn’t ready for the job
The 1985 batch IPS officer, who won a police medal for distinguished service in 2009, supervised the Delhi police investigation last year. He was special commissioner, special cell, a post he still holds. He is now supervising the probe into the terror network of Indian Mujahideen that led to the arrest of IM operatives from Rajasthan and Bengal a couple of days ago
Then joint commissioner of police (crime),Mumbai, Roy led the investigations into the illegal betting racket in IPL 6. Was last month promoted to additional director-general of police and took charge as the chief of Maharashtra ATS. A fitness freak, Roy enrolled himself to study medicine, became a chartered accountant eventually and worked for Arthur Andersen, one of the original Big Five accountancy firms that no longer exists, before he cleared IPS.