On July 6, Punjab Police arrested Ravinder Dandiwal, who is accused of running an international match-fixing syndicate, in Mohali. Dandiwal was arrested after he was named by other accused in organising a fake tournament, the so-called “Sri Lanka Uva T20 league”, at a ground in Sawara village near Chandigarh.
The Indian Express first reported in its print edition of July 3 that an Indian man hailing from Mohali had been identified by police in Australia as the alleged kingpin of a major international tennis match-fixing syndicate.
What is the modus operandi of the organisers in conducting such tournaments, and how do the fixers and betting syndicates benefit from it?
According to police records, the main accused Pankaj and Goldy contacted complainant Parminder Singh to book the Strokers Cricket Association ground at Sawara village near Chandigarh in the second week of June.
The ground was booked for a period of one week from June 29 to July 5 on the pretext of conducting an age-group tournament.
Parminder booked the ground for Rs 33,000 for the whole week on behalf of the organisers, and paid Rs 10,000 as advance. That amount was deposited in the account of Rinku Nehra, one of the officials of the Strokers Cricket Association. The rest of the money was promised after the tournament.
The organisers and players of the four teams that were a part of the fake league reached the ground on the morning of June 29. There were two Twenty20 matches scheduled for the day, one in the morning followed by the second in the afternoon.
To make sure the villagers did not get a glimpse of what was happening on the ground, the organisers blocked the view by putting up tents near the boundary rope.
The organisers, as per the Punjab Police, also called a Delhi resident, Durgesh, to set up high-resolution cameras at the ground so that the matches could be broadcast live on YouTube and other platforms. They procured a leased Internet connection at the ground to ensure uninterrupted streaming.
A Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) official told this newspaper recently that streaming or broadcasting T20 leagues on websites or channels is “vital for organisers because it allows anyone sitting anywhere to watch and place bets, which in turn helps bookies make money when they fix a passage of play or even the result of a game in connivance with players”.
The matches were live-streamed on YouTube by a channel named “crictalks2”. These were then ‘covered’, by the means of live broadcast and commentary, on streaming apps like Fancode.
Numerous other channels on YouTube streamed the live commentary of the matches, but they showed just the scoreboard. On ‘crictalks2’, the six-hour-23-minute-long telecast of the two matches of the Sri Lanka Uva T20 league had been seen by 15,000 viewers until Friday.
The live feed was done via Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP), a protocol for transmitting audio and video over the internet. RTMP has a latency of five seconds.
Fancode officials have said they were not aware that this was a scam. They showed it on their platforms, a statement said, after the organisers furnished a “Letter of Sanction from Uva Province Cricket Association along with an email from the official email ID of Sri Lanka Cricket that provided confirmation of the tournament”.
They also claimed that Sri Lanka Cricket had informed them that the tournament was being held without their approval only after the first day of the tournament.
Questions, however, remain. Fancode’s parent company is Dream Sports, which has Dream 11 – a fantasy sports platform – as one of its brands. On Thursday (July 9), the BCCI asked police to probe the link between Dream11, which is also an IPL sponsor, and the fake T20 tournament.
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The police allege that the syndicate used applications like Diamond, Sky, Lotus, Tenbet, Spin, and Punjab Exchange to organise betting on these matches.
It isn’t yet confirmed if Dandiwal was present at the ground during the matches. The police, though, say some of the bookies were present. They relayed information from the ground to the organisers over the phone and took instructions from them to make changes in the match situations.
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The bookies and bettors have the option to follow the live streaming. Bookies also form groups on instant messaging apps, where they share information and provide ‘tips’ to their ‘clients’.
To place a bet, the bettors get codes and links with setup files to download certain apps on their mobile phones. Once the clients download it, they log in using the code provided by the bookies. Then, they can start placing bets. These applications are run through serves in India or foreign countries like Dubai.
According to the investigators, in tournaments like this, the bookies and fixers control the outcome of the matches, apart from crucial moments like wickets or boundaries. These changes are made according to the betting trends of the clients and the prevailing odds.
So, while the bettors enter the transaction assuming it is fair, the narrative is actually controlled by the bookies.
A club official from Punjab said: “A player, who had earlier played in leagues organised by Ravinder Dandiwal, told me the organisers would ask them to stop the match midway. They would then be given instructions to allow boundaries or to throw away wickets, with bookies telling them to make sudden changes at crucial moments of the match. Even the umpires are told to give a player out or take decisions based on the bookmaker’s information.”
Punjab Police have so far arrested alleged kingpin Dandiwal and four of his associates. The police claim they do not know the identity of the players who took part in this fake league.
A two-member BCCI team comprising Anti-Corruption Unit members Alok Kumar and Anshuman Upadhaya visited Mohali on Tuesday (July 7) and shared information with Punjab Police, apart from questioning Dandiwal.
The BCCI has denied that any player associated with the Board has taken part in the tournament. All the accused have been charged under Section 420, 120-B IPC, and 13-A-3-67 of The Gambling Act.