Fresh dirt on the match-fixing scandal by Aniruddha Bahal in Outlook
In July 2000, officers of the income tax department conducted close to 100 raids across many cities in India. Called Operation Gentleman, the target of the raids were mostly the who’s who of the Indian cricketing establishment and it was linked to the then ongoing match-fixing inquiry being conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). One of the documents seized from a home in Mumbai was a facsimile sent by former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin. The intended recipient seems to have been Sangeeta Bijlani. Consisting of many pages, in Azharuddin’s own handwriting, it is his recollection of what transpired when the CBI’s match-fixing investigative team grilled him for nearly eight hours. According to sources, the CBI’s own interrogation of Azhar was videotaped and the tapes lie with the agency. In the report the CBI finally made public, they castigated Azhar and it subsequently led to a life ban on him as a player.
But the report revealed only the tip of the iceberg. Below is the first ever confession of an Indian cricketer in his own handwriting. Obviously written by Azharuddin to keep a record of what transpired when he was being interrogated by the CBI, it also looks like a document prepared to get some kind of legal opinion. Azharuddin admits to his links with mafia don Abu Salem, a host of Indian cricketers viz Ajay Sharma, Ajay Jadeja, Nayan Mongia, and links with bookies like the famous Mukesh K. Gupta whom he introduced to the former South African captain Hansie Cronje. He also takes potshots at Sunny Gavaskar and a certain Sachin. The Gavaskar potshot is related to his telling Manoj Prabhakar in the Tehelka.com investigation into match-fixing in cricket that Azharuddin fell short of money for a watch in Zimbabwe and had somebody transfer US $10,000 to him. Here Azharuddin seems to be getting back at him, albeit unsuccessfully. In a story that might take a new twist once Abu Salem is extradited to India from Portugal and questioned by the CBI, we present Azharuddin unplugged. The excerpts below are an exact reproduction of Azhar’s handwritten note—with errors and oddities of languag intact. It is in a question-answer format devised by him to explain what transpired between him and the CBI. When contacted (see box), all Azhar could came up with was “I can’t remember these things”.
Azhar on Ratan Mehta
He is a very big bookie and he is also involved in the narcotics and drugs. He is very close to Ajay Jadeja (of which they have tapes of him in conversation with Ajay Jadeja). He is also close to the Pakistan team. In fact, the whole Pakistan team went to RM restaurant in Delhi. RM’s sister Mona Mehta is also involved. More