List of spot-fix suspects lengthens ‘Huge mistake’ on Sree lips

The Telegraph

ANANYA SENGUPTA

Sreesanth’s father Santhakumaran Nair at his house in Kochi on Thursday. (PTI)

New Delhi, May 17: Delhi police sources today claimed the arrested cricketers and bookies had linked two other players with match-fixing and named four team-mates who apparently spurned an invite from bookmakers to a party.

Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar had yesterday denied the involvement of any player other than the arrested Royals trio, but sources today said the recent “confessions” might lead to more cricketers being questioned.

The arrested players’ lawyers, though, denied their clients had made any “confessions” and said all three — Santhakumaran Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila — were innocent.

Such “confessions” are anyway not admissible in court as proof of guilt. An account of what police sources told The Telegraph today about the alleged confessions follows:

Spurned invite

Amit Ramgivind Singh, who was part of the Rajasthan Royals squad during 2009-2012 and played the 2012-13 Ranji season for Gujarat, was the “talent spotter” for the bookies, officers said. The Board of Control for Cricket in India suspended him today.

Amit is the bookie accused of striking a Rs 60-lakh deal for Chavan through Chandila in a phone conversation, whose purported transcripts the police released yesterday. Amit is said to have earlier approached Chandila to recruit players to spot-fix for him.

“Accordingly, on April 6 this year, the bookies organised a party in Jaipur to which six players were invited. Chandila was supposed to draft more players for the bookies at this party,” a police source said.

He said that only Sreesanth and Chavan went to the party. Brad Hogg, Kevin Cooper, Ajinkya Rahane and Siddharth Trivedi stayed away. None of the four players could be contacted till late tonight to confirm if they had been invited to the party — which in itself does not violate any law.

‘Tainted’ match

Police sources said two Royals’ batsmen, one a foreigner and the other an Indian, could be questioned following information — allegedly given by Chandila and echoed by Amit — about an IPL match last year.

The Royals had surprisingly lost the match by one run although at one stage they needed just 15 off 12 deliveries with nine wickets in hand and two set batsmen at the crease. However, the 19th over of the Royals’ chase yielded just three runs and the 20th only 10, and they lost with seven wickets in hand.

The trio

According to police sources, a tearful Sreesanth told his interrogators he had made a “huge mistake” by letting himself be “talked into” joining the spot-fixing racket by his friend Jiju Janardanan, who has been arrested. The pacer, however, denied any knowledge of the “larger network of betting”.

The sources said Chavan broke down first. He apparently told the police he had tried to “resist the temptation” but succumbed to alleged persuasions by Chandila who put him in touch with Amit.

Chandila, the sources said, was the toughest to crack. He apparently held out through last night but eventually, this morning, provided the most telling “confessions”.

“They (the cricketers) are cooperating with us,” said police commissioner Kumar, who was present at Lodhi Road police station when Sreesanth was being quizzed.

After a sweltering night in a cramped cell with his two team-mates, Sreesanth was shifted to a separate cell today with no explanation being given to the media.

Sreesanth’s lawyer Deepak Prakash, however, claimed the pacer had been “falsely or mistakenly” arrested and had not made any “confession”. Rajiv Shankar Dwivedi, the lawyer representing Chandila and Chavan, too insisted his clients were innocent and had been “trapped” by the police, PTI reported.

Police sources said the full transcripts of the purported phone conversations between the players and the bookies had not been made public because “some aspects of the conversations were unrelated to the spot-fixing probe”.

Royals statement

Rajasthan Royals CEO Raghu Iyer today said in a statement: “RR has noted statements which have been made today… suggesting that it was made aware of such matters: these are completely unfounded and are totally refuted. RR will take legal action in the event that such defamatory statements continue to be made by any person.”

He added: “RR has also noted statements which suggest that there have been other related instances in the past. RR absolutely confirms that it has never had any knowledge of any such matters.”

Officers said the police could “speak” to the Royals owners, actress Shilpa Shetty and her husband Raj Kundra, since so many of their players had been linked to the scandal. But the Delhi police spokesperson, Rajan Bhagat, officially clarified that the couple would not be interrogated.

The Delhi police chief had yesterday asserted that no IPL team owner was involved in the spot-fixing racket.

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