An Indian man has been identified by the Victoria police in Australia as the central figure and kingpin in a global tennis match-fixing and betting scam. Board of Control for Cricket in India’s anti-corruption unit (ACU) head Ajit Singh said on Sunday that the person identified in a Sydney Morning Herald report as Ravinder Dandiwal was a ‘person of interest’.
Singh tells The Indian Express how an (ACU) identifies corruptors but why his hands are tied in the absence of a law which criminalises match-fixing.
How do you identify a person of interest?
The basic idea is to keep your eyes and ears open. There are a lot of people who indulge in betting whenever a match is going on. There are people who bet online and there are people who bet at the ground. There are other sources which give you certain information. You have your entire team of participants; the players, the support staff, the management, the ground staff. These people are regularly given education in anti-corruption matters and educated in what the anti-corruption code is and what their responsibilities are. And if they feel there is something suspicious, they report to us. Then we are in constant touch with anti-corruption agencies of other cricket boards and the International Cricket Council. If something comes to their notice, they pass it onto us. There is an exchange of information.
A lot of things come out in the open. Like somebody is starting a private tournament of their own. So, you go into the background of the tournament. Is it a viable tournament? If it is not a viable tournament, why is he organising it? Is it for the love of sports or is there some other reason? And why is a tournament of no consequence being televised? Like there was this Rajputana League in Jaipur. This league (Rajputana) was being televised because they paid the television channel a hefty amount. Once it is televised, your scope for betting goes up manifold.
We are also in touch with certain sports integrity agencies that monitor various trends, plus we also do some social media monitoring. So, there are many ways in which you get information and you focus on certain people and realise that these are the people involved in it.
So Ravinder Dandiwal (the central figure in tennis fixing scam, according to Victoria Police) was a person of interest even before the news was reported in the Australian media?
Yes, we had gone into his background. He wanted to run a league in Mohali which we scuttled. This was about two to three years back. One of the ways (to scuttle) is that if there is a suspect league, we inform the players that this is a suspect league so they are not supposed to participate in it. So once the BCCI players are out, it is more or less gone for the league.
When Dandiwal planned to organise the league in Mohali, was it the first time he came on the radar?
No, he was already a suspect and that is why there were more reasons to look into why he was organising the league. He was supposed to have organised a league in Nepal which was under a cloud. By then, one knew he was a corruptor and this information had come to us. And we passed on the information to the relevant quarters.
Have you been able to crack down on these T20 leagues that get matches telecast for the purpose of corrupt activities?
By and large, we have managed to scuttle them. To run a league, you have to build publicity to attract players and you announce prizes. That is when one checks the antecedents of these people.
Dandiwal seems to have moved into tennis, going by what we know so far.
He is a smart operator, in the sense that by and large, he is trying to get his operations done outside India. His idea is to make money through fixing. Now whether the money comes through cricket or tennis or football or wherever he can manage to make someone, who is a participant, compromise, he will do it.
Currently, how many such persons of interest are on the radar of the BCCI’s anti-corruption unit?
Anybody who has come to adverse notice any time is in our database. It is a substantial number. Now the gravity of the person’s threat could be different. Somebody who has been into betting could be a part of it or he may not have graduated to higher levels. He may have tried once or twice to get close to a player. And somebody else would have risen in the ranks. We, as an agency, have nothing to do with betting, what we are concerned about is match-fixing. If betting leads to match-fixing, that is what we (anti-corruption bureau) need to curb. (Tackling) betting is the job of the police. We are in constant interaction with the participants, we hold education classes, we brief them, we also tell them what is the modus operandi of these people. We also show them photographs that these are the guys and ‘just in case you spot them, be careful’. We also have our anti-corruption network, our integrity officers etc. And they also keep an eye.
Recently, Steve Richardson (coordinator of investigations, ICC anti-corruption unit) said that making match-fixing a criminal offence would be a game-changer for India? What are your thoughts?
I was also part of the panel for the symposium (online) and so was Richardson. We need a law against fixing. See in Sreesanth’s case, he was discharged because the court said that whatever action could have been taken against him under the existing rules and regulations, the BCCI is taking. Unfortunately, there is no criminal law under which his act can be defined as an offence. ‘I have no option but to discharge him’… this is what the judge said.
We are a non-enforcement agency, in comparison to say a DRI (Directorate of Revenue Intelligence) which draws its powers through a legal statute. We do not have powers to summon people who are not participants or obtain records or for search and seizure. These powers are with the police and other enforcement agencies. Once they have a law under which they can act, then control over them (bookies/fixers) would be very effective. Right now, we can’t do anything to Dandiwal even if we have some information.
If you have information about someone like a Dandiwal, does the anti-corruption unit have powers to question him at least?
No. We don’t have the power to question a person. We can request him (to come for questioning). If he comes, fine, but if he does not, there is little we can do. Also (without a law), police will be able to only question him if he has committed a crime. That is why we say we need a match-fixing law. If the law comes through, it will be of great benefit.
In top leagues in the country across sports, like the IPL or say the kabaddi league or a badminton league, what level of corruption exists, if at all?
As far as IPL is concerned, I think after the action that was taken in earlier cases, everybody is aware of it and they realise (the repercussions). In the last two IPLs – and I am saying last two IPLs because I have been in-charge for those two years – nothing has come to light which indicates corruption. And it is a constant sort of (vigilance) because new players come in, education needs to be done. Players need to be updated, the anti-corruption code also keeps getting updated with new provisions, like in terms of the authority to ask participants for various documents, the gadgets and communication devices they use and call details etc.
Social media is everywhere now, so how big a challenge is it to monitor activity?
Social media is something that needs to be constantly monitored and looked into. You have an account on Facebook, you pose as a great fan of a player and it could be an account in a wrong name. Then you can try and gather friends, like those who are into cricket and are cricket fans and then somehow move close into the playing fraternity by building contacts and then trying to exploit it.
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