“Meet and Greet with the Indian Cricket Team.”
Fliers with this message have been seen at stadiums all through the India-Australia ODI and T20 series. For 550 Australian dollars (Rs 31,083) per head, there was a promise of “amazing food, beer, wine and soft drink, fantastic interviews and Q&A’s”. The event was to be held at the Manjits Wharf restaurant in Sydney on January 5, just when the Indian Test squad was to land in Sydney.
On Tuesday, close to 200 ticket-holders were expected to land at the venue with the hope of spending an evening with India’s cricket stars. They were to be greeted by the local police, who informed them that they had been conned.
Deep Gujral, general manager at Manjits Wharf, too was taken for a ride by the promoter of the event that never happened, who has been arrested.
Speaking to The Indian Express from Sydney, Gujral said that the alleged fraudster got in touch with him in September. “He got in touch with us quite a few months back, which is not unusual. Since ours is a Michelin starred and chef hatted restaurant, a table for two will take four weeks on the waitlist,” Gujral tells The Indian Express.
“The deposit for booking the entire restaurant is AUD 75,000, but he paid only a 1,000 upfront. When we approached him for the rest of the deposit we got no answer. So we knew his event wasn’t going to happen.”
He said since his restaurant was often frequented by the cricketers, it was targeted.
“The Indian team anyway frequently dines at the restaurant, the restaurant is a quality fine-dine Indian establishment, the stars aligned for this guy to try this scam,” he says. “Our good name has come into disrepute because of this guy.
On Tuesday, the restaurant was forced to break the disappointing news to those who clutched the fake tickets as a prized possession.
“Naturally, nobody was happy. And we empathise and sympathise with them,” Gujral says. “Since it’s a premium restaurant, and as he claimed the Indian team was coming, he could justify the cost in the scam. Basically the intention was to sell as many tickets as possible and run away with the money. And since the restaurant was already booked out we couldn’t let the people hoping to meet the cricketers come in to dine.”
“The police luckily caught the guy and he’s in lockup,” Gujral adds. “Now he’ll have to start paying back for everything he’s done.”
Gujral says that they have been delivering meals to the cricketers regularly.
“We look after the catering of the Indian team whenever they’re in Sydney. And every second day we have players over here, even (Virat) Kohli, who is vegan. We have an outdoor section, which is reserved for them. The players have my number, so they call and tell me if they’re coming or if they want something delivered,” he says.
“Right now we send food to the hotel, be it their morning Upma or Pongal, or some of the North Indian dishes. So we have a good tie (up) with the team. And they’re the ones who gave me the information that this scam is going on. It’s been over a month since we informed the police, who have now caught the guy.”