What is common in corruption investigations against Brendon Taylor, Heath Streak and Shakib Al Hasan? All three former international cricket captains received corrupt approaches from Indian bookmakers posing as businessmen.
Former Zimbabwe captain Streak is serving an eight-year ban from cricket. Former Bangladesh skipper Shakib is back after being banned for failing to report corruption. Former Zimbabwe captain Taylor, who made an emotional confession on social media on Monday, is under investigation by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
But the ones who get away light-heartedly are the corruptors – Indian bookmakers who continue to multiply by cheating the system without police.
These are the more recent examples. Going back to the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal, the plaintiff’s case was based on alleged bookmaker Jiju Janardhanan lured world buyer S Sreesanth to get spot-fix instead of cash. The main accused in the 2000 Hansie Cronje scandal was alleged bookmaker Sanjeev Chawla, who was released on bail after extradition from London in May 2020.
“Usually, the corrupters are linked to the unregulated gambling markets in India — almost always,” said Alex Marshall, GM of ICC’s Anti-corruption Unit (ACU), last November. “Because they have the largest volumes. And they are not regulated. So you can’t see – nobody can see what’s happening in that market.” Industry body FICCI pegged the underground or illegal sports betting market at more than Rs. 3,000,000 crore.
Take the case of Deepak Agarwal, a bookmaker posing as a Delhi businessman and committing corrupt approaches to Streak and Shakib. The ICC could ban him from cricket for two years for “impeding or delaying an investigation conducted by the ACU” because he briefly owned a team in the T10 league in 2018 and thus fell under the definition of ‘participant’ according to the code .
“In any case, these bookmakers don’t have a reputation to save,” said Ravi Savani, head of BCCI ACU and GM at ICC ACU. “The only thing that can be deterrent is if they have to spend time behind bars. That is only possible if there is a law for match fixing.”
COURT CLEARS KPL CASE
In the Karnataka Premier League scandal, the state association had suspended four players, a coach and a franchisee in 2019. The investigation was led by the Bengal Police, who filed the charges. Last week, Karnataka’s Supreme Court quashed the criminal petition. “Match fixing can indicate dishonesty, lack of discipline and mental corruption of a player and for this purpose the BCCI is the authority to take disciplinary action. If the BCCI statutes provide for the imposition of disciplinary action against a player, such action is permitted, but registration of an FIR on the grounds that a crime has been committed which is punishable under Section 420 IPC (Act with regarding fraud), is not allowed. Even if the full charges are assumed to be true on the surface, they do not constitute a criminal offense,” the court said in the decision.
“The city police could file a review request,” said Shabir Hussein Khandwawala, head of BCCI’s ACU wing. “These are the challenges of the system within the current legal framework. What we want to do is work hard within the parameters of our code and enlist the help of the local police to keep the game free from corruption.”
Another alleged international key figure from India, Ravinder Dandiwal, was arrested for holding a dubious and fake competition in Noida in 2020. He is out on bail.
In Taylor’s case, an ACU officer says, the bookmaker he accuses of handcuffing him for $15,000 has sued the player for allegedly running off with $40,000. It is unlikely that the alleged bookmaker, if found guilty, will be booked under current legal provisions.
“If the market is regulated, you can run algorithms and identify anomalies that occur in betting. If it’s not regulated you can’t do it and the Indian gambling market is huge,” Marshall said. “It’s up to the Indian government to decide what to do about it.”
The Mudgal report while investigating the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal recommended legalizing betting in India. The Lodha Commission’s report on BCCI reforms then wanted fixation to be criminalized. In 2016, the National Sports Ethics Commission Bill was introduced in Parliament as a private member’s bill by the Member of Parliament, and now the union’s sports minister, Anurag Thakur. The bill has yet to be introduced.