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Probing extortion racket, we ended up unearthing match-fixing scandal: Delhi Police

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Probing an extortion racket in 2000, the Delhi Police intercepted telephonic conversations of alleged bookie Sanjeev Chawla and the then South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje, which led to the unearthing of one of the biggest scandals in sports.

The investigators, who unearthed the 2000 match-fixing scandal that shook the faith of many cricket lovers in the game, feel "satisfied" with the extradition of Chawla, a key accused in the scandal, from the UK on Thursday.

A Karol Bagh businessman had approached the Delhi Police with a complaint about getting extortion calls from Dubai, following which an FIR was filed, Ishwar Singh, who was investigating the case, said.

At that time, Singh was an inspector in the anti-extortion cell of the Crime Branch and while analysing the phone numbers from India that were in touch with the Dubai phone numbers, he found some of them to be suspect.

"The suspect numbers were intercepted and one of those numbers was found to be used by Chawla," he told PTI.

According to the FIR, on one hand, Chawla was getting in touch with people in South Africa and London for fixing cricket matches in connivance with South African players, on the other, he was contacting certain "satta" operators based in India for higher bids.

"During one of the conversations that were tapped, the police heard Chawla telling someone, 'The captain will come to my room', but we were not sure which captain he was talking about," Singh said.

However, it was learnt that Chawla had a meeting in room number 346 of a five-star hotel in Delhi on March 14, 2000 and on scanning the hotel records, it was found that he had met Cronje.

Chawla had also spoken to Cronje on March 16, 2000 about a match scheduled at Vadodara.

The FIR said it emerged that One-Day Internationals (ODIs) played between India and South Africa in March, 2000 were fixed for "exchange or consideration" of money.

Singh said after the series got over, they made the phone conversations public, sent letters rogatory to South Africa between the end of 2000 and the beginning of 2001 and pursued for Chawla's extradition, but things did not fructify.

On June 1, 2002, Cronje died in a plane crash in South Africa. He was the only passenger on board the Hawker Siddeley HS 748 turboprop aircraft.

Alok Kumar, now retired, was the additional deputy commissioner of police (crime) at the time.

"It is very satisfying that the rule of law has prevailed," he said about Chawla's extradition.

Alok Kumar was also in the thick of things when the chargesheet was filed in the case 13 years later at the behest of the then Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar.

Neeraj Kumar said it was a mediaperson who had pointed out to him that the 2000 match-fixing scandal had not reached the court.

"After we unearthed the IPL spot-fixing scandal in 2013, someone from the media said, 'Why do you solve such cases? They never reach the court.' He told me that the Cronje case was never sent to court," he recalled.

The former police commissioner then found out that what the journalist had said was indeed true and got his officers to trace the case files, which were subsequently found at the Ashok Vihar police station.

"We caught hold of all the investigating officers, the case files and reconstructed the case. I tasked Dharmendra Kumar with preparing the draft chargesheet and he did a good job. I vetted the chargesheet, read every word in it and it was filed on July 30, 2013. I retired the next day," he said.

The former police commissioner said he pursued the matter with Alok Kumar, who prepared the extradition request and took it up with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs.

"The extradition request was prepared at my behest. I kept after Alok Kumar. I put him on to some CBI officers, who helped him prepare the extradition request, and he pushed it through," Neeraj Kumar said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, February 13 2020. 20:26 IST