Too many loose ends, IPL probes hit a lean patch

Jatin Anand

New Delhi, June 13 -- The spot-fixing/betting investigation that started with a bang and rocked the cricket world seems to have fizzled out, if the long silence of Delhi and Mumbai Police investigators is anything to go by. Two of the three arrested Rajasthan Royals cricketers are now out on bail. So are Chennai Super Kings executive Gurunath Meiyappan and actor-bookie Vindoo Dara Singh, the other big catches.

The promised arrest of players from other teams never came. Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf managed to flee the country before he could be questioned over his links with bookies. Add to that a key prosecution witness who is showing signs of turning hostile.

On Wednesday, the Delhi Police hit another legal roadblock. A city court said the special cell had failed to justify slapping the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) - usually reserved for gangsters - on the accused, especially after having failed to establish a tangible money trail.

Seasoned investigators within the force agreed.

"Instead of arresting the three players merely on the basis of intercepted conversations, they should have moved in and caught them accepting payment red-handed," said an officer.

Having built their case on the phone intercepts apparently involving top underworld players such as Dawood Ibrahim, the police are now staring at mission impossible - to prove that Dawood is in fact alive, kicking and managing an international crime syndicate from an offshore location.

"The court has asked us to prove Dawood was passing on instructions through his voice sample," said an investigating officer.

"How can we get his voice sample? The best we could do was rope in the Intelligence Bureau to say the number belonged to Dawood and has been used by Chhota Shakeel too."

After the dramatic arrests of Vindoo and Meiyappan, the Mumbai probe is also at a standstill. The crime branch has had to confess in court that since it did not found any instance of spot fixing, it is limiting its probe to illegal betting on matches.

That too seems to be falling apart with a senior officer claiming they were now looking to prove a case of cheating and forgery against the accused, as "many of them purchased SIM cards on bogus documents".

In addition, notorious bookies and key accused Pawan Jaipur, Chandresh Shah alias Jupiter and Shobhan Mehta alias Shobhan Kalachowkie managed to flee the country.

"There was clear high-handedness on the part of the police," said Vindoo's counsel Satish Maneshinde. "The custody of the accused was not warranted as they were booked under the gambling act, a bailable offence."

However, investigators in both cities claimed the probes were on track. A Delhi officer said "sufficient technical evidence exists" and more arrests based on the disclosures of arrested bookie Ramesh Vyas are in the offing. "Vyas is singing," the officer said.

"He has provided sufficient evidence for us to establish MCOCA on two IPS officers and more arrests will be made in the coming days."

Mumbai deputy commissioner (crime) Satyanarayan Chowdhary claimed the roadblock was on account of many key players being at large. "Once we get them, the case should progress further," he said.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.