New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the underworld-bookie-cricketer nexus, has said Dubai and Pakistan based underworld gangs were running dedicated groups of operators to concentrate on the 'lucrative business' of match-fixing and betting in international cricket.Information about the formation of such groups emerged as part of vital clues collected by the agency on the way the underworld operated in betting and the murky dealings in cricket.
The bureau has been working towards exposing the underworld's involvement in cricket ever since it registered a separate Preliminary Enquiry (PE) in the case.Agency sources told UNI that the investigation into the matter, which started soon after the submission of its report on match-fixing and betting in Indian cricket in November last year, was progressing at a 'fast pace' and ''we have gathered a lot of vital clues about the case".
''The underworld gangs, realising the money generation capacity of fixing and betting, have created dedicated teams to take care of this part of operation,'' the sources said, adding that indications were that the gangs were 'more close' to cricketers, game administrators and officials of the Indian sub-continent.Also, the agency collected a lot of information about the alleged role of a number of cricketers, administrators and officials in the murky business. However, it refused to reveal details as ''it may hamper investigations''. ''We have information about their close links with the underworld operators and will question them at an opportune time,'' they said.
The sources refused to identify any of the persons against whom evidence had been collected or doubts existed, saying ''It's not fair to disclose these facts at this stage as the matter is still in progress.''The premier investigating agency is also considering taking active help from the Delhi Police and the Mumbai Police to reach to the bottom of the way the underworld operated. The agency has already contacted a number of countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Singapore and sought help in providing inputs about the possible role of the underworld in tournaments held there. The CBI decided to probe the matter considering there was a rising interest of underworld in cricket in India and any ignorance to the fact could cost dearly to the national security.
The underworld involvement in match-fixing and betting was unearthed during the CBI probe, though it was hard to judge the exact dimension of their (underworld) operation.The CBI collected evidence about the alleged links of a few Indian players, including former captain Mohammad Azharuddin, with the underworld. The agency had, in its 162-page report on match-fixing released on November two last year, warned that if concrete steps were not taken immediately, the underworld was feared to take overall control of the betting racket.
Negligence of the police and other authorities in allowing ''wagering to turn into an organised racket, particularly with the involvement of the underworld mafia'', was cited by CBI as reason for the growth of these mafia goons in cricket.
The possible involvement of the underworld in betting in Indian cricket could be seen in the statements of former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin and the team's former Physio Ali Irani who had indicated the involvement of mafia dons Anees Ibrahim, Abu Salem and Sharad Shetty. The CBI report quoted Azhar stating during his interrogation that ''Abu Salem had rung him up on a couple of occasions to fix matches but he had refused to 'do' matches for him as he was already doing it for Anees Ibrahim.
''The statement of Ali Irani supported the CBI's fears that underworld was involved in the game. The report said, ''It does appear that what may have been small-time wagering (which to some extent is inevitable) has now been replaced by an organised syndicate, and this syndicate has started interfering with the purity of the sport.''