Friday, June 16, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Azhar introduced me to bookie: Cronje
Confesses getting $ 80,000

CAPE TOWN, June 15 (PTI) — In a sensational twist to the match-fixing controversy, disgraced South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje today alleged that Mohammed Azharuddin had introduced him to an Indian bookmaker from whom he had taken money four years ago.

A subdued Cronje announced before a commission inquiring into corruption in cricket here, he would not play representative cricket again, after confessing that he had received a total of $ 80,000 from an Indian bookie called Mukesh Gupta to whom he had been introduced by Azhar in 1996.

Cronje corroborated the testimony of Pat Symcox that he (Cronje) had phoned Gupta and asked for an additional one lakh dollars but Gupta was prepared to increase his offer by only $ 15,000.

Gupta even travelled to South Africa and had paid $ 50,000 into a bank account in Bloemfontein, Cronje said.

He said Gupta had offered three lakh dollars for losing the third Test in South Africa but he had refused.

The information which he had provided to Gupta included the selection of team for the first Test in Durban, daily forecasts and indication of when he would declare the innings during the second Test in Cape Town.

Cronje said Azharuddin arranged a meeting with the bookmaker known as MK in a hotel during South Africa’s tour of India in 1996.

“On the evening of the third day of the third Test against India in Kanpur I received a call from Mohammed Azharuddin. He called me to a room in a hotel and introduced me to Mukesh Gupta otherwise known as MK. Azharuddin then departed and left us alone in the room.”

Cronje said that “MK asked if we would give wickets away on the last day of the Test to ensure that we lost” in return for money.

“He asked me to speak to other players and gave me approximately $ 30,000 in cash to do so.”

Cronje said he promised to speak to his team to contrive an outcome, but never did so.

“In the event we however lost the Test match. I had effectively received money for doing nothing and I rationalised to myself that this was somehow acceptable because I had done nothing,” Cronje said.

Cronje said the same bookmaker also offered him money to throw the final one-day match of the tour and he this time put the offer to the team, but they rejected it after two meetings.

Cronje confessed to pocketing large sums of money during a five-year flirtation with bookmakers and vowed that he would not play representative cricket again as punishment.

A repentant Cronje told the commission that he had repeatedly lied to cover his tracks, and went on to detail dealings with bookmakers that brought him tens of thousands of dollars over the years.

“I was not honest and I apologise unreservedly,” he said, adding that he felt shame and humiliation at having heaped misery on the game, his team mates and his family.

“I’ve also decided to severe my connections with the game and will not again play cricket at representative level again. Since the first revelations ... in April, I have known that my days as a cricketer are over.”

Cronje admitted he had pressurised team mates Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams to lie and conceal bribe offers and appealed to the United Cricket Board of South Africa to keep them in the national side.

“Herschelle, forgive me,” he said emotionally to the young batsman who was sitting a few rows behind him.

Cronje said the bribe attempts started in 1995 when he was offered money to throw a match against Pakistan in the Nelson Mandela trophy series, but he turned it down.

He first took money in India in 1996 when a bookmaker introduced to him by Azhuraddin gave him $ 30,000 in cash as an incentive to persuade his team to lose the third Test of the tour.

Cronje said he never approached the side but as South Africa lost the Test anyway he pocketed money for nothing.

The offer was followed by another to lose the last one-day match of the tour in exchange for $ 200,000 and this time Cronje took the bribe offer to his team, but they turned it down.

The offers came pouring in the following years and in the end, Cronje said he accepted at least three bribes as well as “gifts” from bookmakers.

Explaining his motivations, he said agreed stupidity and the “lure of easy money” had been downfall and that he had become “increasingly trapped” by his dealings.

Cronje said he believed coming clean could yet prove dangerous.

“I fear the revelations in this statement create serious implications for my personal safety. I have already received death threats”.

The hearing was postponed until Tuesday when Cronje will be cross-examined.

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