Sanjeev Chawla, the man behind the Hansie Cronje match fixing scandal, who opened a dark door of scams in cricket crazy India

  • The scandal that led to Chawla’s extradition is 20 years old, an era before IPL began and one-day matches were the rage.

  • Chawla is central to the bookie-cricketer nexus and his extradition will pull the lid of many hidden secrets of retired cricketers.

  • The case was unraveled by a phone tapping cell in Delhi by an inspector who was keeping a tab on extortionists.
Indians have been waiting with bated breath for its famous financial fugitive Vijay Mallya to come home. Instead, an Air India flight brought back another fugitive – a match fixer Sanjeev Chawla. For a cricket crazy nation, Chawla is as much a villain as a businessman who refuses to pay his dues.

The scandal itself however is 20 years old, an era before IPL began and one-day matches were the rage. It was also the time when mobile phones had expensive incoming calls and more. It is these conversations that had netted Chawla, who runs a restaurant and garments shop in Oxford and lives in a 6-bedroom home, back to Tihar jail.

Chawla is central to the bookie-cricketer nexus and his extradition will pull the lid of many hidden secrets of retired cricketers. But, it might also bring other ‘restaurateurs’, ‘gym owners’ and ‘diamond merchants’ who are hand in glove in the deep-running racket.

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From the anti-extortion cell of Delhi

Like all great crime stories of the times, Chawla’s case was unraveled by a phone tapping cell in Delhi. An inspector Ishawar Singh was given the task of keeping a tab on extortionists bothering the then-top executives of Apollo Tyres. But in the exhaustive list, Singh found that some of the numbers matched similar calls that Kishan Kumar, a failed Bollywood actor and the brother of T-Series head Gulshan Kumar, who was shot by Mumbai mafia, according to a detailed report on the scandal by India Today.

Singh saw that two numbers that calling Kishan were keeping in touch regularly and the conversations got longer and frequent during the South Africa and India cricket series. One of them was a London-based garment owner Chawla and the other was an illegal bookmaker masquerading as a printing press owner, Rajesh Kalra.


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Cronje complained of payment delays

Thus began the conversations that sent ripples across the world. The now-deceased Hansie Cronje who was then the captain of South Africa - made deals, complained of payment delays and made ‘assurances’ of his teammates’ scores. And then, there were conversations between Chawla and Kalra who fought about a ‘match script’. Cronje later also confessed and quit but before he could turn into a valuable witness, he was killed in a passenger airline crash in 2002.

But the tapes were more than enough. There were smart conversations and ‘hints’ that Delhi police duly decoded. Both Chawla and Cronje called a Lajpat Nagar number on the same day, which was picked up too. These revelations came as a shocker to cricket fans but also answered nagging doubts on why a batsman missed that ‘obvious’ run or why a fielder left an easy catch.

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Chawla was arrested in 2001 by the Scotland Yard but was released due to insufficient evidence. Another charge sheet was filed in 2013 by Delhi police who trumped the London police with their Sherlock Holmes-like attention to detail. The long-standing battle has now brought the criminal home. It could also help police join the dots with 90% of the bookies who have left the country in a huff soon after – to Miami and many other locales not to mention the many in Greater Kailash and Vasant Vihar of Delhi.



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