Cricket mafia targets SA

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Mohali

TURN on a television here in India and cricket from faraway South Africa domestic Twenty20 competition will be beamed live at you – and into the ambit of illegal betting operations that are at the centre of the game’s ongoing battle against match-fixing.

They could also be the reason Cricket South Africa (CSA) said this week they were “carrying out an investigation after gathering intelligence that an international syndicate is attempting to corrupt domestic cricket” in the country.

CSA said the International Cricket Council were involved in the probe which “could involve the South African Police Services”.

Betting on sport, besides on horse-racing, is outlawed in India and the rest of the Asian sub-continent except in Sri Lanka.

But the practice continues to flourish regardless with the gambling market in India alone estimated to be worth US$60-billion. Half of that money is made and lost illegally.

“This is a timely reminder that we can never drop our guard in protecting the integrity of the game at every level,” CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said in a statement.

“We have an effective partnership with the South African Cricketers’ Association to ensure that all our players, support staff and administrators are well educated about the nefarious activities of corrupt people and are aware of the consequences of falling victim to any shady approaches.

“Our attitude to corruption will always be one of zero tolerance and we are confident that we have the necessary structures in place to effectively deal with any corrupt activity.

“We will relentlessly pursue under our code (of conduct) and the law of the land any persons we believe to be involved in corrupting the game and, with assistance from the police, we will also seek criminal prosecution.”

The Internet has opened avenues for gamblers in India with many websites openly offering instructions on how to flout the law.

One of them, onlinecricketbetting.net, claimed that 40% of India’s internet users had admitted to visiting gambling websites.

“There are very few, if none at all, cases where people have been arrested or fined for gambling online in India,” the site posted on one of its pages. “Soon, when the government realises the extent of the revenue they are missing out on they will probably remove this law altogether.”

In similar vein, it is common knowledge in India that much of the bootleg liquor trade is centered on Gujarat, which is officially a dry state.

Match-fixing hit the headlines in South Africa in 2000, when former national captain Hansie Cronje admitted – after lying several times – that he had accepted money from figures in cricket’s gambling underworld to influence the outcome of matches. Cronje was banned for life.

In 2011, Pakistan players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were jailed for their dealings with gamblers.

Former New Zealand player Lou Vincent has admitted his match-fixing ways while compatriot Chris Cairns is currently standing trial in England on perjury charges after previously denying his involvement.

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