London, March 16: Hansie Cronje, the late South African captain, had more than 70 overseas bank accounts.
Cronje, who died in a plane crash last June, had “71 or 72 accounts”, according to one of the three law enforcement officers in South Africa who confirmed their existence, in spite of the World Cup being in progress. All were illegal as Cronje did not declare them to the South African Revenue Service.
The accounts, based in the Cayman Islands, were in addition to the 27, which Cronje held in South Africa. The amount of money in them has never been established.
According to one source close to South Africa’s director of public prosecutions, the forensic audit of Cronje’s affairs was terminated on his death.
“As soon as the plane crashed the investigation was called off. There was nobody left to prosecute.”
This version of events is disputed, however, by three other sources, who said the investigation was called off a month before Cronje’s death.
The South African government, already concerned at the mounting cost of the inquiry, was alarmed at the embarrassment the country would suffer — ahead of the World Cup — if the full extent of Cronje’s corruption became known.
At the King Commission in Cape Town in 2000, Cronje admitted to accepting $130,000 from bookmakers for fixing matches and performances within them. That sum was always suspected to be the tip of the iceberg, but the size of the iceberg had never become apparent, until now.
Indian government tax investigators, who examined the financial affairs of players suspected of match-fixing, have also confirmed the size and widespread nature of match-fixing.
They established that several leading figures in the international game in the mid-to-late 1990s were each receiving a basic of $50,000 per month — paid into untraceable Cayman Islands accounts — from India’s illegal bookmaking industry.
In return for an outlay of $3 million a month, this mafia was able to influence Tests and one-day internationals. On the average one-day international, a sum of $250 million is gambled, according to a report by the Anti Corruption Unit, set up by the International Cricket Council.
The enormity of the sums involved in match-fixing never came to light during the King Commission because the inquiry was limited to whatever documentary evidence Cronje volunteered. Even the three UK bank accounts which Cronje submitted had gaps in them and were “obviously tampered with”, according to a forensic investigator.
Now there can be no doubt about Cronje’s greed and the worldwide web of intrigue in which some of his younger players were caught, like Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams, the two non-whites in the team who were both banned for six months for their parts in match-fixing.
“He was a crook,” said one of the three law enforcement officers who revealed the 70-plus overseas bank accounts owned by Cronje. He also expressed his dissatisfaction that the truth had been covered up after Cronje’s death so that the public continued to be deceived. Two of Cronje’s team-mates, Jonty Rhodes and Allan Donald, dedicated the present World Cup to his memory.
As South Africa’s captain from 1994 to 2000, Cronje was in a unique position to make the national cricket team a multi-racial model for the rest of society to follow. But he abused it for his own corrupt ends.
As a cricketer, Cronje should have been remembered for the hundreds of runs he scored. Instead, his legacy is a century of bank accounts.
The Sunday Telegraph