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With bookie Sanjeev Chawla’s return, police may question ex-players in fixing case

DCP (crime branch) Ram Gopal Naik, who was sent to London for this purpose, told The Indian Express that they will reach India on Thursday morning.

Written by Mahender Singh Manral | New Delhi | Updated: February 13, 2020 5:25:22 pm
Sanjeev Chawla, Sanjeev Chawla extradition, Hansie Cronje match fixing scandal, Hansie Cronje match fixing, cricket corruption, cricket news Sanjeev Chawla is a key accused in the 2000 case involving late South African captain Hansie Cronje.

Almost two decades after one of the biggest match-fixing scandals in cricket came to light, Delhi Police on Wednesday got custody of bookie Sanjeev Chawla, the key accused in the 2000 case involving late South African captain Hansie Cronje, after completing legal formalities for his extradition.

Chawla, 50, had filed an application in the UK High Court seeking leave to appeal against the extradition order by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court. UK home secretary Sajid Javid had also signed off on the District Judge’s order in favour of the extradition.

In the last two months, a Delhi Police Crime Branch team has attended several court hearings in the extradition case and Scotland Yard officers handed over Chawla’s custody to them after completing the documentation.

Read more about the fixing case | Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal: Sanjeev Chawla, the one that got away

DCP (crime branch) Ram Gopal Naik, who was sent to London for this purpose, told The Indian Express that they will reach India on Thursday morning. “We will do in-depth and thorough investigation and are likely to question all the former Indian cricketers whose names surfaced during that time regarding their alleged roles in the match-fixing case,” he said.

Bookie Sanjeev Chawla is the key accused in the 2000 match-fixing case, which involved the late South African captain Hansie Cronje (right).

Chawla, who was on bail, was first taken back into custody by the Metropolitan Police before handing him over to Delhi Police.

Inspector Keshav Mathur, who had filed the chargesheet in July 2013, was shortlisted by senior Delhi Police officers along with Naik and they were sent to attend all the court hearings. “Mathur had also initiated Chawla’s extradition proposal and is aware of all case-related documents,” a senior police officer said.

70-page chargesheet

Mathur had filed the chargesheet in the scandal naming Cronje, who was killed in a plane crash in June 2002. Chawla and Cronje were named in a 70-page chargesheet by the Crime Branch for ‘fixing matches played between India and South Africa from February 16, 2000 to March 20, 2000 in India’, an officer said.

The scandal broke in April 2000, when Delhi Police intercepted a conversation between blacklisted bookie Chawla and Cronje, in which it was learnt that the South African captain had accepted money to lose matches. Chawla has also been accused of offering money to two England players in August 1999.

As soon as Delhi Police filed the FIR in the first week of March 2000, Chawla moved to the UK. He had gone there for the first time on a business visa in 1996, but his Indian passport was revoked in 2000, and he obtained a British passport in 2005.

Arrested in London

On June 14, 2016, Chawla was arrested in London following India’s request for his extradition, and UK officials then asked Delhi Police for details of security arrangements and facilities in the jail he will be kept in. This was done after Chawla raised several questions about security and facilities in Indian jails.

In response, police informed UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) — through the Ministry of External Affairs — that Chawla would be housed in Tihar Jail, which they described as a central facility following international standards, and he will be provided a special cell with special security personnel, a senior police officer said, adding that in January this year, a lower court issued a fresh order, allowing Chawla’s extradition, and it was later sent to the UK home secretary, who formally signs off on the order under the India-UK Extradition Treaty. 

Sources said several meetings were also called by senior officers where they discussed the case history and also prepared questions for Chawla. “In one such meeting, they also called complainant ACP Ishwar Singh, who had intercepted the phone calls.

Singh had filed a complaint with charges of match-fixing against Cronje, London-based businessman Chawla and four of the latter’s associates. It had details of how Chawla and Cronje allegedly fixed team scores, and mentioned the roles of four other South African players, including Herschelle Gibbs,” police sources added.

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