There’s a lot of corruption in Indian Cricket, particularly, in tier 2 and tier 3 league matches of India, says Neeraj Kumar who has just retired as the Head of the Anti Corruption & Security Unit (ACSU) of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Supreet Aneja reports:
Former Police Commissioner of Delhi, Neeraj Kumar, in an exclusive interview with Cine Ink reveals the extent of corruption in Indian Cricket by citing several examples of alleged match-mixing. However, he laments the fact that there is no specific law to deal with the corruption of fixing matches in India.
In a wide ranging interview with Pervaiz Alam of Cine Ink, Neeraj Kumar shares how he tried to get the most wanted Mafia man- Dawood Ibrahim- back in India for his alleged crimes. He also reveals the details of arresting and bringing Yakub Memon back to India, who was later sentenced to death over his involvement in the 1993 Bombay bombings.
Neeraj Kumar also talks about his role as the Police Commissioner of Delhi in solving the infamous ‘Nirbhaya Rape Case’ in December 2012.
On the subject of prevailing corruption in Indian Cricket, he shares his experience of witnessing it personally as the Head of the Anti Corruption & Security Unit (ACSU) of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) but says that it is in control in the tier 1 games (IPL, T-20, International level).
He says there is high level of corruption in tier 2 and tier 3 games ( private leagues, T-20 leagues by State Associations etc.) of Indian Cricket. He apprehended around 28 culprits with the aid of the police, confirmed Mr. Kumar.
Mr. Kumar explains the modus-operandi of corruption in cricket – how few organisers, who have link ups with some bookies, mingle together, organise a cricket tournament, televise it and the players in such matches do as asked by them due to their old connections. Ultimately, the bookies make huge profits by placing bets.
“Corruption in Indian cricket is deep rooted as it starts from the level of a novice, upcoming cricketer who has to pay money to play at another level,” says Mr. Neeraj Kumar.
Mr. Kumar calls it a ‘grooming stage’; if a bookie wants someone to underperform, he starts helping the cricketer from a young age, looking for an opportune time to come to make the full advantage of his investment.
Mr. Kumar cites a major case of CBI inquiry in the year 2000. This was the time when top players such as the then captain of the Indian Cricket team, Mohammad Azharuddin was named, and later banned for life from the sport.
Neeraj Kumar further talks about Mukesh Kumar Gupta, who, according to him was a pioneer of match fixing business in India. “Mr. Gupta,” he jokingly adds, “became the role model for other bookies as he realised the impact of weather on the outcome of the cricket”.
“Based on weather reports received from different countries, Mr. Gupta placed bets, and made a fortune due to his informed bets,” says Mr. Kumar.
When asked about MK Gupta’s conviction, Mr. Kumar replies that it was a mere inquiry and no case was registered against anyone because India does not have any law against match fixing or cheating in sports. However, the law has been tabled in the parliament, but is still not passed, adds Mr. Kumar.
“The good part of the inquiry was that it ended the career of those cricketers who were involved in match-fixing and it is the biggest punishment for any cricketer,” he says.
Neeraj Kumar confirms revenues of the IPL matches have been rising for the past few years. This year- 2018 – broke all previous records as the revenues tripled, confirms Mr. Kumar.
“Tier 1 league matches do not have corruption because the cricketers have realised that it would lead to an end of their careers,” says Mr. Kumar.
In 2013, Mr. S. Sreesanth, who played for Indian XI, was one of the accused in a case of match-fixing during Neeraj Kumar’s tenure as Police Commissioner. Mr. Kumar explains how, in a systematic way, some bookies accessed the cricketers through middlemen and made them do what they wanted. If they wanted a bowler to throw 14 runs in an over, they would decide on a certain gesture, like, the use of towels or increased warm up, so that the person involved in betting gets the cue and can bet accordingly, he says.
Neeraj Kumar says that he collected evidence of the conversations between the accused persons, details of their agreements, post-broadcast material of the matches on video as well as audio- so that a case against the involved players was firmed up. But to his utter dismay, the case was rejected by the Delhi trial court due to the lack of a constitutional provision. Police have appealed in the High Court.
On another matter, Mr. Neeraj Kumar narrates a special incident close to his heart from his book, “Dial D for Don: Inside Stories of CBI Case Missions” released in 2015. He reveals how his team of the CBI officers brought Yakub Memon’s family from Karachi to Dubai and then to India. Mr. Memon and his brother Tiger Memon were accused of plotting the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts, which left 257 people dead, injured 1,400 and delivered a massive blow to Mumbai’s psyche. The bombings were also metropolitan India’s first exposure to terror.
Mr. Kumar says Yakub’s family wanted to return to India, but intelligence agencies of India’s enemy country were putting obstacles in their way to return to India.
Mr. Neeraj Kumar says that it was crucial for him to keep the whole matter confidential as international operations of this magnitude involved the embassies and diplomats of several countries.
“We didn’t want it to be leaked from customs or immigration, or else a maelstrom would have occurred,” says Mr. Kumar.
“Yakub Memon’s arrest was accidental,” Neeraj Kumar reveals.
According to Mr. Kumar, Memon was identified at Kathmandu airport security check, where a bunch of keys in his bag looked like a gun, and the subsequent checking revealed his identity.
He further says that Yakub Memon wanted to return to India with his family because he was not happy living in Pakistan as Memons were kept in a sort of semi captivity. They could not call each other by their real name and were living a superficial life.
Discussing the most wanted man in India- Dawood Ibrahim, Neeraj Kumar confirms an effort was made to bring him back as well. At the request of Manish Lala, a close ally of Dawood Ibrahim, whom he describes as the law minister of the D Company, telephonic conversations took place between Mr. Kumar and the Chief of D Company, Dawood Ibrahim.
Mr. Kumar recalls a chilling incident when he received a call on his retirement and it was none other than Dawood Ibrahim at the other end, who asked Kumar to leave him alone, at least now that he had retired.
When asked about the cat and mouse relationship of police and gangsters, Neeraj Kumar says, “If both the parties play their games fairly, a mutual understanding develops as the gangsters realise that the police official is just doing his duty.” He adds that the problems arise when they feel cheated in this game.
He further reveals at one point his seniors asked him to focus on his work instead as ‘bringing Dawood back to India’ was the work of other agencies.
Talking about the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim, Neeraj Kumar confirms that he is in Pakistan as that is the safest place for him under the protection of government agencies who have changed his identity like name, parentage, license, etc.
However, he emphasised that the efforts are underway to bring him back to India for his trial.
Talking about the Nirbhaya Case, involving the gang rape of a 23 year old woman in 2012, he says his team worked day and night to see to it that the accused persons were arrested within 72 hours. He further elaborates how on the basis of the same charge-sheet they got conviction from the Supreme Court, and finally the accused got the death sentence except the juveniles.
Mr. Kumar feels his major contribution in solving the entire case was the insulation he provided to his team from extreme media exposure, political and public attacks and took infliction upon himself.
Neeraj Kumar says, “The number of rapes in India may be more, but when correlated with the population, they are less than other nations”.
Quoting statistics, he says the incidents of rape in public spaces are 3%, whereas rest of the 97% rapes take place in private spaces, where the culprit is known to the family of the victim. Also, he says that it is not a law and order subject, but a problem of mindset.
When asked about the reason for changing the rape laws if it is not a law and order subject, he says the changes were made due to several loopholes in the system, which are now corrected, for instance, there was no law for ‘stalking’ but now the accused can be punished. He emphasises his point yet again that despite changes, if the number of incidents is not decreasing, it proves the core problem lies in the psyche of the people.
Talking about how some of the politicians of the country try to give a religious angle to rapes as it happened in the Kathua Rape Case of January 2018 and the Mandsaur Rape Case of June 2018, Mr. Kumar says that politicians, not only in India but worldwide obfuscate the core issues.
He says, “The negative narrative or the toxic narrative they indulge in, gets them votes”.
Neeraj Kumar confides he is working on his second book, based on his experiences as a career police officer, for instance, his time as Director General, Prisons. He recalls one such incident when Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, was put in prison during the Anna Hazare movement. “Though, Mr. Kejriwal was released from the jail but he won’t leave the prison,” Neeraj Kumar says, looking amused.