Colombo: Sri Lanka's former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga has resisted International Cricket Council's (ICC) investigators grilling him over match-fixing charges and slammed local authorities for probing "nonsensical allegations." Sri Lanka's lone match-fixing investigator Desmond Fernando said Ranatunga refused to answer questions from the ICC's anti-corruption officials. "Ranatunga's lawyers took up the position that he had not been given prior notice of the questions," Fernando said. "It is now up to the ICC's anti-corruption panel to decide how it wants to proceed." Ranatunga was questioned for about two and a half hours on Wednesday in the presence of ICC's chief anti-corruption investigator Jeff Rees and another official. But the foreign investigators could not get answers from Ranatunga. However, in contrast, Fernando said that Ranatunga's deputy Aravinda de Silva who is also facing similar charges co-operated with the ICC officials and answered their questions. "When the ICC people wanted to put some questions to Aravinda, I went out of the room because I did not know what the questions were and I felt it could prejudice my own inquiry," Fernando said. Fernando as well as the chief investigator of the ICC's anti-corruption panel Rees, and fellow investigator Alan Peacock questioned De Silva. "Questions suggested by the New Zealand (cricket) Board (NZB) and Mr Martin Crowe's counsel was also put to Mr de Silva," Fernando said without elaborating on what the questions were. The former New Zealand skipper has admitted receiving $ 7,500 for what he believed was a series of media articles, but broke contact when he realised it was a scam involving an Indian bookmaker. It has been alleged that Sri Lanka's De Silva introduced Crowe to bookmakers. Fernando said he tried the same approach with the questioning of Ranatunga so that the ICC could put questions to him directly, but failed as Ranatunga and his lawyers objected. Fernando's probe is focused on allegations contained in a report last year by India's Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), which based the allegations on testimony by an Indian bookmaker, Mukesh Kumar Gupta. However, ICC's anti-corruption chief, Sir Paul Condon, who visited here last week announced that they were widening the scope of their inquiry beyond the allegations made in the Indian CBI report. Former skipper Ranatunga was not immediately available for comment, but in a letter published in a newspaper on Sunday he told local investigator Fernando that his main accuser, Gupta was "self-confessed rouge." Ranatunga also blasted Sri Lanka's Board of Control for Cricket (BCCSL) for setting a bad precedent with the probe. "Of in the future, anybody whomsoever, however unsavoury a character he may be, makes scurrilous complaints against any cricketer of our country at any time, is that cricketer to be harassed and insulted by being asked for observations on such rubbish," Ranatunga said. Ranatunga said he was "amazed" that Fernando, a prominent lawyer, failed to advice the local cricket authorities not to proceed with the inquiry against him and his former deputy De Silva. Ranatunga said the cricket Board, which initiated the inquiry against the duo, was acting in bad faith and was out to destroy him. Ranatunga and de Silva are accused in the CBI report of taking bribes to engineer a Sri Lankan defeat in the 1994 Test against India at Lucknow. The report had testimony from Gupta who alleged he gave $ 15,000 to de Silva but it was not clear of money had in fact been given to Ranatunga too. Ranatunga has flatly denied the charges of corruption while de Silva maintained that he never took bribes, although bookmakers approached him. The head of the ICC anti-corruption panel, former Scotland Yard chief Sir Paul Condon, said that international players named in the Indian match-fixing probe would be investigated beyond the charges made public against them. "There would be a whole realm of charges and not confined to the CBI report, it will expand to further material that would not be in the public domain." Sir Paul also made it clear that he will not preside over a whitewash and no efforts will be spared to clean up the game. He said match-fixing had been going on for about 20 years.
Copyright AFP 2001