The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Home Minister L.K. Advani were unhappy over registration of cricket match-fixing case in 2000 against then South African team captain Hansie Cronje and others but it was Cronje's confession that pacified them, former Delhi Police Commissioner Ajay Raj Sharma has revealed.
In his book "Biting the Bullet - Memories of a Police Officer" released on Thursday, Sharma highlighted how the confession of Cronje before journalist was a big relief to him. He said that when the registration of FIR was done, "the Home Minister at the time was out of Delhi and so was the Prime Minister".
"When the Prime Minister returned, the High Commissioner of South Africa showed her great resentment and protested that a case had been registered against the Captain and some of the other members of South African team, who were celebrities and had a great fan following in South Africa," he writes.
He then said that it was disturbing for the Prime Minister who, in turn, spoke to the Home Minister and expressed his displeasure about the decision of the Delhi Police to register a case.
Sharma said he and the then Lt Governor were summoned. "The Home Minister summoned the Lieutenant Governor and me to his office the next day. On the way, something fortuitous happened. A South African journalist called me to ask about my reaction to the confession made by Hansie Cronje hardly an hour ago!"
He said that the journalist told him that Cronje has confessed that he and some of his teammates had cheated and indulged in the match fixing for monetary gains.
Sharma then narrates about what happened at Home Minister's office. "When the Home Minister asked me why a criminal case was registered against members of the South African team, I requested him to allow me to switch on the television in his office. As soon I switched on the TV, the Home Minister witnessed the Hansie Cronje kneeling before a priest and making confession."
A "relieved" Sharma explained that he thereafter was not asked anything.
But he said that had the biggest challenge to interrogate the accused in the case, but could not do so due to which the entire probe was stuck.
The probe into cricket match fixing came to standstill after efforts to interrogate alleged bookie Sanjeev Chawla, Cronje and others remained unsuccessful, Sharma said.
"Efforts made via the Foreign Ministry and through the Interpol were not successful. Without being able to interrogate the key players, the Delhi Police investigation could not progress further. A non-bailable warrant issued against Sanjeev Chawla by the court was sent to the UK for execution through Interpol which also issued a red corner notice against him," Sharma said.
He explains that no reply of letter rogatory sent to the UK and South Africa was received during his remaining tenure as Commissioner of Police.
The case was registered in April 2000 and it was only last week in February 2020, Delhi police managed to extradite key accused Chawla from the UK.