On cricket selection scam radar: sports firm, officials, ex-IPL player

On cricket selection scam radar: sports firm, officials, ex-IPL player, the vie

OFFICIALS OF three state cricket associations, a suspected match-fixer, a former convenor of selectors of Delhi cricket, a one-time IPL cricketer, a Bengal under-19 player and the operators of a sports management company that brought all of them together.

This is the cast of characters so far in an alleged “cash for selection” scam to dupe aspiring cricketers around the country, which came to light after a complaint was filed four months ago by a club player from UP with the police in Gurgaon where the management company is based.

In his complaint filed on July 9, the UP player Anshul Raj accused Ashutosh Bora, the president of Gurgaon-based Secure Corporate Management, of allegedly defrauding him of Rs 10 lakh with the promise of getting him a slot in the Himachal Pradesh Under-23 side for the BCCI-mandated CK Nayudu tournament.

When the Gurgaon police raided Bora’s office in Sohna Road on September 5, it seized “contract papers”, which allegedly showed that the company had deals with 18 players. Subsequent scrutiny of phone conversations, WhatsApp chats, money trail and travel plans resulted in the arrest of Bora, and one of his accomplices, a former Bengal under-19 cricketer Danish Mirza, police said.

Last week, the police filed a chargesheet in the case. And to connect the dots, notices have been issued to cricket officials in Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and those that run the T20 Bihar Cricket League.

The Indian Express traced the key figures who were sent these notices: one said he had received money from Bora as an advance for using a ground but returned it; two others said they had never heard of Bora; and a fourth official said his “tenure was over” and that he had not been involved in selection.

Bora and his sister Chitra, who is the company’s managing director, were arrested on September 3 on charges of forgery, cheating, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation, and are currently in Haryana’s Bhondsi jail.

In the past, sting operations and one-off complaints have exposed corruption in age-group cricket at state level, but the involvement of a management company in this case hints at such operations getting centralised and more organised.

According to police sources, bank statements linked to Bora allegedly show money transferred into the account of a former Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) director/ convenor Sanjay Bhardwaj and also a company connected to Nabam Vivek, a vice-president of the Arunachal Cricket Association (ACA).

Bhardwaj declined to explain why he had received money from the accused but claimed that he had “no idea” about players being cheated.

Arunachal cricket official Vivek told The Indian Express: “I never met that fellow (Bora). His representative wanted a ground on lease for running a cricket academy. An advance was given. Due to Covid, the final agreement could not be done. When it was too late, I returned the advance.”

Vivek said he returned the money “a long time back”. Asked about the money being sent to his account, he replied: “Not a personal account. It was in my firm (firm’s) account.”

Officials associated with the Bihar Cricket Association have been asked to appear for questioning after police found that Secure Corporate Management and Bora had allegedly made travel arrangements for at least one of them.

Sanjay Kumar Singh, a district representative of the association; Sanjiv Ratan Singh, the chairman of the Bihar Cricket League; and Om Prakash Tiwary, the convener of the League, were asked to appear before investigators on September 25. When contacted, Sanjay Kumar and Om Prakash said they did not know Bora. Sajiv Ratan was unavailable for comment as he was busy with a medical emergency.

Another former DDCA official, vice-president Rakesh Bansal, had been asked to appear for questioning in mid-October. “My tenure is over and moreover I had nothing to do with the selection of players. I have not received any notice so far,” Bansal said.

The Gurgaon Police are also examining the role of Sobers Joban, a former league cricketer from Delhi, best known for being featured in an undercover video released by the UK tabloid, The Sun, in 2017. In the video, Joban was heard offering to sell details of “fixed” sessions of an Ashes Test.

Joban could not be contacted but his father Baljeet, a cricket coach, told this newspaper that his son was in Russia. “He had got a clean chit from anti-corruption officials after he was seen in what was called a sting video (The Sun). He had no role in corruption back then and even now,” Baljeet said.

Cricket Association of Uttarakhand’s former CEO Aman Singh said he was asked by the police to confirm if a team list printed on the letterhead of the state unit and circulated by Bora was genuine.

“They (the accused) seemed to have forged a team list and made changes to include certain names. The original team list was put out on social media. I clarified to them the original team list uploaded by the association. There is nothing more to it,” Singh said.

In his complaint to the police, cricketer Raj, who hails from Pipraya village in UP’s Jalaun district, says he was promised a place in the Sikkim team as well by Bora.

“As I belong to a poor and simple family with big dreams and passion for playing for my nation, the accused defrauded me and my family with such a scam and sucked out a huge amount from us by overstating things. I respectfully pray that an FIR may kindly be lodged against the accused,” the complaint states.

Raj says that pacer Javed Khan, who played T20 cricket for Delhi and was once part of the Mumbai Indians set-up, was projected as the face of Secure Corporate Management. Raj says he was introduced to Khan at Secure’s office. Khan, however, has claimed that he was also “duped” by Bora.

The Gurgaon Police’s Economic Offences Wing-2, which is probing the case, says there is sufficient grounds for questioning those who have been issued notices.

“A chargesheet against seven accused in the case was presented in court on November 1. In the subsequent probe, we will ask the others, whose names have come up, to join the investigation and question them,” Dharamveer Singh, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Economic Offences Wing-2, Gurgaon Police, said.

Rao Bhagat Singh, who is the counsel for Bora and Chitra, said: “This case is a conspiracy to extract money from my clients and blackmail them. Pressure is being created for that purpose. The next date for hearing is November 14.”

(With inputs from Pavneet Singh Chadha)

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