Monday, July 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cronje contemplated suicide

LONDON, July 23 (PTI) — Disgraced former South African captain Hansie Cronje has said he was tempted to commit suicide after his involvement in the cricket betting scandal was revealed, media reported today.

In his first interview since the scandal broke out in April, Cronje told the ‘‘Sunday Telegraph’’: ‘‘Yes, there were dark moments when I wondered whether it was still worth living. I’d think Hansie you have fallen so far anyway. A few more feet won’t matter’’.

‘‘But I’ve caused so much pain to my family already. I couldn’t put them through more. Not that’’, he was quoted as saying.

‘‘There’s no one to blame for the position I’m in but myself. Whatever happens, whatever it takes, I’m going to see this through to the bitter end’’, he said.

The former captain said that he was not asking anyone to feel sorry for him. ‘‘This tragedy is entirely of my own making. It would be easier to list those people I’ve not let down rather than those that I have. After crossing out my wife, my dad, my family, my team, my sport and my country, there’s not much left’’, he said.

Cronje speaks of the moment he knew his life had changed forever. ‘‘I knew the game was up the second I read the message on my mobile from the United Cricket Board saying that there were allegations that we’d thrown the one-day series in India.’’

‘‘I knew that wasn’t true but I realised they were on to something and would get to the bottom of it. It was a case of wait and see. But I had this horrible sinking feeling in my stomach as it dawned on me that my cricket career could be over’’, Cronje said.

‘‘Everyone would get dragged into it — my family, my teammates, South Africa, cricket — but my first thought was of self-preservation’’.

‘‘What I can’t still believe is that I lied to my wife, Bertha and my dad that day. I don’t know how long I thought I could keep lying but one weekend was long enough for me. I took legal advice and decided that I had to tell the whole truth’’, he said.

‘‘Lying to my wife hurts. The one thing she’s said from the start is that I never confided in her, even on April 7,’’ Cronje said.

‘‘The trust that I betrayed as far as the South African team is concerned, hurt just as much as the family.

‘‘Then you remember calling the South African team together to contemplate losing a game. Then it’s the fact that you’ve destroyed your cricket career and reputation for money. Anyone of those is hard. Altogether it’s a nightmare — as traumatic as those three days at the (King) Commission’’, Cronje lamented.

Cronje will learn his fate when an interim report is submitted to South African president Thabo Mbeki on August 11.

Cronje still seems unable to explain why he was prepared to gamble so much for so little.

‘‘The first mistake was giving the wrong impression to a bookmaker that first time I was approached. I was stupid. I should have said ‘get out of my life. I don’t want to be involved.

‘‘But I didn’t. I fought at times. I didn’t accept their phone calls. I didn’t want to be associated with bookmakers and I didn’t want to pass on information. But I always gave in. It seemed to me that the next time was always a little bit easier that the last time.

‘‘I was being sucked in and that was nobody’s fault but my own greed, stupidity and the lure of easy money got me into this mess,’’ he said.



Lockers to be opened today

NEW DELHI, July 23 (PTI) — Following “successful” completion of the searches at the premises of top cricketers, board officials and bookies across the country, Income Tax authorities are set to initiate the process of opening the bank lockers sealed during the search operations from tomorrow.

IT sources said nearly 60 bank lockers, including 13 in Delhi, 10 in Mumbai, two in Patiala and the rest in other places were sealed during the searches, codenamed “Operation Gentleman’’ at the premises of people connected with cricketing world.

“We are planning to do it faster’’, said a top IT official adding that the task of opening the lockers would be completed within a week as a few of the cricketers, whose premises were raided, are out of station and their presence was essential.

While a ‘panchnaama’ (list of recoveries) will be prepared soon after opening the lockers, valuation of properties and preparation of inventory of assets in each case would be completed in the next two to three months, they said.

An appraisal report would be prepared by the assessing officer on the basis of this information within 60 days time and a notice served on the assessee to file a “block assessment’’ for a 10-year period 1990-2000.

Meanwhile, former India skipper Mohammad Azharuddin, who is in London, is understood to have conveyed to Income Tax authorities his intention to return to Hyderabad where his valuables have been sealed.

Azharuddin, who is scheduled to play an one-dayer at Oval in London on July 29, may advance his return by a few days, the sources said.

IT officials in Mumbai had earlier said that the department had unearthed “huge cash transactions in respect of investment in immovable property and evidence of lavish lifestyle” of a former India captain following the search operations launched on cricketers, their relatives, bookies and persons associated with the game.

Documents indicating strong movement of funds and withdrawal of cash for investments in property have been seized during the search operations launched in eight premises in Mumbai, they said.

Director-General (Investigation) of Income Tax S.C. Parija said yesterday that the two day searches yielded more clinching evidence of undisclosed income by some of the prominent players and documents than what the department had expected.

“If subsequently additional concealment was discovered, they would be taxed at rates ranging from 100 per cent to 300 per cent. They could be prosecuted for failure to pay up the penal taxes which might lead to imprisonment for seven years,” he explained.

The contents of a large number of bank lockers seized during the operations spread across several cities will be known tomorrow when they are opened. The department personnel will also start scrutiny of the seized documents and examine the linkages between cricketers and bookies in the light of allegations of betting and match fixing, currently being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

“Some of the bookies have 30 to 40 bank accounts in their names. The financial transactions will be examined to bring out their nexus, if any, with the cricketers and the relevant papers will be handed over to the CBI,” Mr Parija said.

The cricketers targeted during the raids were Kapil Dev, Mohammad Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Nikhil Chopra and Ajay Sharma. The searches also covered the establishments of former ICC President Jagmohan Dalmiya, BCCI Treasurer Kishore Rungta and Worldtel Chief Mark Mascarenhas. At some places like Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, CBI personnel were also called in during the operations.

Though the raids were wound up on Friday, the taxmen will again visit along with two witnesses the premises of some cricketers who were not present at the time of the raids. “We are awaiting the return of Azharuddin, Jadeja, Chopra and Ajay Sharma,” Mr Parija said. While Jadeja, Azhar and Nikhil have gone to London to play in an exhibition match, Ajay Sharma has been in England for some months now playing in a minor county.Back



Give details on match telecast rights: HC

NEW DELHI, July 23 (PTI) — Amidst the Income Tax Department’s swoop on several top cricketers and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) office, the Delhi High Court has asked the Centre and the board to furnish details of cricket match telecast rights given to Prasar Bharati allegedly under the influence of the World Tel.

Mr Justice Manmohan Sarin, who had issued notices to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Ministry of Sports, the BCCI and Prasar Bharati earlier on a petition challenging the board’s right to award the telecast contract for five years to Prasar Bharati, gave one more opportunity to the respondents to file their replies on the issue.

The deal between BCCI and Prasar Bharati was challenged in a civil writ by a Delhi-based firm, Combine Advertising Company (CAC) and its owner S.K.Gupta, who alleged that the board gave the contract at a “secret meeting” on August 2 last year without calling for international bids.

The petitioner also challenged Prasar Bharati’s action in the giving contract further to World Tel for one year saying it was “illegal and contrary to public policy”.

The petitioner alleged that the contract was given with the purpose of settling the dispute of the $ 7 million payment with World Tel arising out of the 1996 World Cup telecast.

The high court has yet to decide an appeal by Prasar Bharati in this case, the petition moved by CAC counsel Shyam Moorjani said.

The petitioner claimed that World Tel and Prasar Bharati were trying to hammer out the 1996 World Cup telecast dispute under which the latter was expected to withdraw its appeal in bargain to the sub-contract given to the former for one year.

Seeking the quashing of the contract, the CAC described the action of the respondents as “discriminatory, arbitrary and violative” of public interest as it deprived people, including the petitioner of publicity facility available through a public sector corporation.

The petitioner alleged that the BCCI had given the cricket telecast rights to Prasar Bharati for all games played between October, 1999 and September, 2004 without following any objective criteria and approval of the working committee.

While the five-year contract was given only for Rs 230 crore to Prasar Bharati, the BCCI could have easily earned about Rs 500 crore had it gone in for international bids, the petitioner claimed.

“It is a well settled law that such contracts should be awarded through due process of competitive bids in public interest not by selective allotment even if the party was a public sector body,” the petitioner said. 

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