Global match-fixing kingpin Chawla’s interrogation to open Pandora’s box

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Cricket.

New Delhi:  As the Delhi Police’s Crime Branch awaits custody of cricket match-fixing kingpin, Sanjeev Chawla in London, his inevitable questioning can trouble at least four former star cricketers and a couple of Bollywood personalities. These celebrities were linked with the “global bookie” but could not be tried as Chawla fled to London on a business visa soon after the match-fixing was unearthed by Delhi Police in early 2000, reveal officials of the Crime Branch handling Chawla’s extradition case.

Crime Branch sources said that Chawla, the front man of actor-producer Krishan Kumar, from India’s largest music company T-Series, was also in touch with a few Bollywood celebrities involved in betting. Krishan Kumar, charge-sheeted in match fixing case, had not only handed over his mobile phone to Chawla to contact disgraced South African captain, the late Hansie Cronje, but also introduced him to several big punters of Mumbai and Delhi.

“Chawla was the kingpin. Unfortunately we could not question him as he escaped to London. Consequently several important leads in the fixing case could not be followed. Now he seems certain to be extradited to India…. and his interrogation here would certainly open a Pandora’s box,” said Ajay Raj Sharma, the then Commissioner of Police who supervised the probe into the match-fixing scandal.

Investigation reveals that Chawla was also in contact with several top cricketers of New Zealand, Pakistan, West Indies and, of course, South Africa. Through one of the bookies Mukesh Gupta, London-based hotelier Chawla got in touch with a former Indian cricket captain and virtually got inside the Indian team’s room.

Chawla was also arrested by the Scotland Yard when he approached two international cricketers — Alec Stewart and Allan Mullaly — in early 2000. However both cricketers denied involvement in fixing and were let off. Former New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming was also quizzed by the Scotland Yard in connection with having contact with Chawla’s agent.

Sources said that Pakistani cricketers, including Mohammed Amir and Salman Butt, were in contact with Chawla who is suspected to have been operating for a syndicate backed by Dawood Ibrahim. Both Amir and Butt were suspended for several years on charges of corruption and involvement with bookies.

“The match-fixing case registered by the Delhi Police is one the most important cases in cricketing history as it involves some of the biggest names in the game. During my tenure as Delhi Police Commissioner, I discovered that such an important case was under the carpet for years. In 2013, I instructed my subordinates to file the charge sheet,” said former IPS officer Neeraj Kumar, who also the unearthed the spot-fixing scandal involving the D-company and several IPL players.

The UK Home Department is expected to give a final go ahead on Chawla’s handover to Delhi Police in a few days. Earlier, the UK High Court had sent a sealed envelope to the Home Department to take a final view on Chawla, whose extradition appeal was turned down by two judges of the High Court on Thursday last.

Chawla, who turned a major bookie for the D-company in the late 1990s, would be the second person to be extradited from London since the UK signed an extradition treaty with India in 1992.

Delhi Police’s DCP, Crime Branch, Ram Gopal Naik was in London recently to expedite handover process of Chawla.

“The High Court has already given orders. Now we are only awaiting certain extradition formalities to be carried out by the Home Department… it seems within a few days, we will have the orders in hand,” said a Crime Branch official.

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