Underworld has betting syndicates in vice-like grip

New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) The joke doing the rounds in Delhi Police circles is that they are investigating the betting and spot fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League (IPL) more to keep their chief in the news till his retirement early next month.

Jokes apart, the police are aware that not only in Delhi but in most cities the investigations may not go beyond the sensational breaking-news stage for want of follow-up action owing to the lack of what they call material evidence.

"The police are in possession of every shred of information as to how organised betting and spot fixing are carried out and the men heading the syndicates doing these operations," a senior police official told IANS.

"We also know how the operations are carried out; yet it is not easy to file a case without evidence that can hold water in a court of law, even with confessional statements," said the official, pleading anonymity because of the sensitive nature of these investigations.

"In the court, witnesses turn hostile and in the IPL case we have to see what will be the stand of Siddharth Trivedi, who is a prosecution witness, after the Indian cricket board said it was issuing him a show-cause notice for not sharing the information with it or the IPL Governing Council," the official said giving voice to a fear that is plaguing the investigation agencies.

Then, look at what Umesh Goenka, a bookie and a friend of Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra, did once he was freed after 12 hours of questioning. He accused the police of torturing him to implicate the British national.

The police are not sharing any great piece of information when they say that the underworld is involved in large-scale betting and spot fixing. They are also not tired of invoking the name of the infamous D-Company and its widespread network in the subcontinent and beyond its shores.

The underworld has its own unwritten code of conduct and the last word on all aspects of betting and spot fixing is believed to be that of fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar -- from inviting bets and offering odds on all features of the game to the mode of payment.

"Fear of gun" and "counter-guarantees for payments" scare punters from reneging or spilling beans.

"No one dare trick the bookie, though everything is done by word of mouth. The cash transactions are usually done quietly every Thursday/Friday," a middle-level bookie told IANS obviously not wanting to be named.

"Betting has been a full-time occupation for several people. The underworld has a vice-like grip on the entire activity in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities in the country and overseas," Joint Commissioner of Police (Special Cell), Madan Mohan Oberoi told IANS.

The betting syndicates operate at different levels and in Delhi the big ones, who deal in crores of rupees, are less than a dozen and they are seen rubbing shoulders with the elite of society.

The betting is not confined to any particular strata of society. It all started with inside trading in the bullion market and they then ventured into sports. An incentive for those indulging in high stakes is that the bookies promise to launder their ill-gotten wealth and convert it into white without any hassles.

"The high and mighty in India place bets with these top-notch bookies and huge amounts of cash change hands on a regular basis and much of the money is routed through the illegal hawala channels," said Oberoi.

The live TV sport is another encouraging source for bookies and punters to go berserk. They are invariably glued to the television sets betting on any sport, even on sports they have absolutely no clue about.

"What is there to understand? You lose money once or twice and you know the mistake you have committed. In the beginning I used to take help from genuine sports lovers who explained to me the intricacies of the sport," said a small-time businessman, who got hooked on to betting first for fun and is involved now somewhat seriously.

"Money teaches everything, from nuances of the game to the performance swings of fickle sportspersons, more so when you lose repeatedly," he added.

Another bookie from Delhi's walled city says a punter can bet on anything and everything these days. In cricket, it can be right from the toss to runs in the session between strategic breaks and individual scores/wickets/fours/sixes in an over. Thanks to TV, they can keep changing bets and their rates at various stages of the competition.

"Except on the first and last 10 overs of a One-Day international, we place bets on every other slab of 10 overs," said punter Rehman (name changed).

The accepted betting jargon has both numerical and code words. It could be 67/68, 70/73 when you are talking on the number of runs likely to be scored in a slab of 10 overs.

It is "Khokha", for a crore, and "Petee", for a lakh and their multipliers.

In the ongoing IPL spot fixing case, two of the bookies, Ramesh Vyas and Ashwani Aggarwal alias Tinku Mandy, hold sway over the betting syndicates in south India and north India respectively.

"Another bookie Firoz, who was arrested by Delhi Police on June 11 from Mumbai, works as a conduit between Dawood and other bookies. He also takes care of money-related issues, doubling up as the troubleshooter for the syndicates," said Oberoi.

Will all this information help nail the real culprits? The police themselves are not too sure.

(Rajnish Kumar Singh can be contacted at rajnish.k@ians.in)

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