The owner of a Karnataka Premier League cricket team was arrested by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) unit of Bengaluru Police on Tuesday following a probe into an alleged cricket betting racket during the KPL season that concluded last month.
Ali Asfak Thara, a travel and tours businessman who bought the Belagavi Panthers franchise in 2017, was arrested by the CCB after several days of interrogation. Along with Ali, several others involved with KPL — including players and coaching staff of more than one team — were also questioned.
“The CCB has unearthed a betting scandal in the KPL. Belagavi Panthers team owner Ali was placing bets on matches. He placed bets with a bookie who is allegedly in Dubai. He is arrested for betting,” joint commissioner of police (crime) Sandeep Patil said.
The investigation into the KPL betting racket is yet to unearth evidence of results of matches being fixed but there are indications of fixing of the toss, batting order, no balls and wide balls and other events during games, police said.
“Match-fixing is still under inquiry. Ali was in touch with players of other teams during the KPL. The players are being investigated,” Patil said.
As many as 12 players in KPL are suspected to have been in touch with Ali for betting as per the investigation, police sources said. The probe into betting and match-fixing in KPL was opened up by the CCB on the basis of inputs provided by the BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) soon after allegations of betting and match-fixing in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), they indicated.
Police claimed that they were on the lookout for a Dubai-based bookie with whom the Belagavi Panthers owner collaborated to fix passages of play during KPL matches. Ali, who has business interests in Dubai, had revived the fortunes of the Belagavi Panthers after buying the team. The franchise, which now has India international Manish Pandey as its most high-profile player, won the league in 2017.
Ali has also been involved in promoting T20 cricket in Sri Lanka where he organised an inter-academy tournament a few years ago. During KPL, there was allegations of matches being fixed with bookies operating online offering full details of ‘fixed’ events in a match and the final result at the start of games to people signing up on Whatsapp.
The BCCI’s ACU had taken over the charge of monitoring state-unit run T20 leagues organised by various state associations for this season. Many cases have emerged for investigation while a few have led to BCCI registering complaints against individuals.
“ Players from Indian women, TNPL, KPL, Mumbai informed us about someone approaching them. These unwanted elements want a platform and they keep on approaching. The Indian woman player who was approached was not even playing, she was doing rehab, these people make random approach,” BCCI ACU chief Ajit Singh had told The Indian Express last week.
“This year the cases of approaches have come more to us because of the additional responsibility we have taken of looking after these T20 leagues organised by the state associations”.