Main Menu
Top of Page
Top of Page
  | Home   | Index   | Info   | This Week   | Poker   | News   | Email

Welcome to the News desk.

Gangsters behind illegal betting on world cricket 24/03/2007
Andrew Culf, Declan Walsh in Islamabad Saturday March 24, 2007

Bob Woolmer's death has cast a spotlight on the murky but lucrative world of sports betting on the sub-continent, with suspicions that a betting syndicate could have been involved in his murder.

Gambling is banned in Pakistan, but it is a major underground industry run by a network of bookmakers with links to syndicates in India and Dubai.

Prospective gamblers call their bookmaker on his mobile, using the reference of a friend or relative. The odds quoted are less favourable than those in the UK or in Mumbai. Punters have little choice - Pakistani credit cards are banned from major internet gambling sites.

Winnings are collected and losses paid through money changers. "It all works through intermediaries," said a Karachi businessman. "I've never actually met my bookie. I have no idea what he looks like."

One well known bookmaker is the brother of a famous former player who has faced match-fixing allegations. The trade is extremely lucrative. Some bookmakers are connected to organised crime figures such as Dawood Ibrahim, a notorious mobster on Interpol's most wanted list. Powerful criminal syndicates are said to dangle huge sums before players to swing results of games.

Former Pakistani bowler Sarfraz Nawaz claimed Woolmer was murdered because he was about to expose a match-fixing scandal.

Indian gangster Babloo Srivastava appeared on TV, en route to a court appearance on an unrelated murder charge, claiming Ibrahim was behind the killing. "The Pakistan-Ireland match must have been fixed. The D-company [Ibrahim's gang] may have lots of money at stake," he said. "Woolmer may have got an inkling of the fixing and so he was killed." Srivastasa's claims are unsubstantiated. But the Indian authorities have long suspected that Ibrahim, wanted in connection with the bombings in Mumbai that killed 200 people in 1993, has been involved in match-fixing.

The cricketing authorities were forced to react to the scandal in 2000 involving former South African captain Hanse Cronje, who admitted accepting $130,000 (£66,550) to fix matches. The International Cricket Council established its anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU), and retired Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Condon produced a devastating report which concluded match-fixing was rife.

Since then cricket has tried hard to clean-up its act: Cronje, before he died in a plane crash, was banned for life; his team mates, Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams, received six-month bans.

Others punished included India's Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma, who received life bans, although Azharuddin's was lifted, as did Pakistan's Salim Malik and Ata-ur-Rehman, although the latter's was also lifted.

Security measures were put in place, with CCTV cameras trained on dressing rooms, and a ban on players using mobiles during matches.

Yesterday Lord Condon said cricket had responded robustly to his report.

"I do not think match-fixing is the problem that it was," he told Radio 5 Live. "Nevertheless, there are some very unsavoury people involved in seeking to fix matches, or parts of matches."

Suspicion has continued to swirl around the game. The ACSU is investigating Marlon Samuels, a West Indies batsman, over an alleged attempt to pass information to an illegal bookmaker during a one-day international. The authorities have a taped conversation between Samuels and alleged bookmaker Mukesh Kochar, who Indian police say is a known associate of Ibrahim. Police said there was no evidence money had changed hands. Samuels denied wrongdoing.

As Pakistan prepared to play Ireland, one gambler was offered odds of 50-1 for a shock upset, while another had heard figures of 95-1.

Fancy fixings
Betting on international cricket on the sub-continent involves millions of rupees, with money placed on the outcome of a game and on a multitude of possibilities during it. These are much easier for bookmakers to manipulate because they only require the involvement of one or two players. Known as "fancy fixings", they are difficult for the authorities to police because of the huge number of one-day internationals played. The anti-corruption unit watches for unusual betting patterns and analyses the tapes of suspicious matches, but with many of the bets placed anonymously on the internet or via mobile phone, they are difficult to monitor.