The Delhi Police Special Cell, which questioned owner of Indian Premier League team Rajasthan Royals Raj Kundra for over 10 hours on Wednesday in connection with the spot-fixing case, is probing whether he has links with those running a betting syndicate.
Top police sources said a final decision on whether there is evidence to initiate legal proceedings would be taken on Thursday.
Several attempts to contact RR Chief Executive Officer Raghu Iyer seeking Mr. Kundra’s response did not elicit any response till late on Wednesday night.
During questioning, Mr. Kundra has reportedly denied his role in betting or any illegal activity. However, a senior police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators were looking into the possibility that he may have ties to those involved in betting on cricket matches.
“He has no links with the bookies arrested by us so far. Also, we have not come across any evidence whatsoever to suggest his role in the spot-fixing case being probed by the Special Cell. However, there are certain facts indicating that he could have contacts with those involved in the betting business. We questioned him thoroughly on each and every aspect of the queries framed on the basis of the prima facie evidence with us. His replies would be analysed to ascertain whether there was enough ground to [continue] with his questioning or initiate legal proceedings by adding relevant provisions of law,” said the officer.
It is learnt that Raj Kundra was summoned to the Lodhi Road office of the Special Cell around 10 a.m. and then was asked to record his statement.
Mr. Kundra’s Rajasthan Royals had, as a complainant in the case, alleged that S. Sreesanth and the other two cricketers, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, breached the conditions of their contract by indulging in spot-fixing in conspiracy with bookies.
However, when Mr. Kundra did not come out of the Special Cell office for long, it fuelled suspicion that there was more to the case and that he was being questioned regarding other aspects. Police officers confirmed that he was indeed asked queries pertaining to his suspected connection with those said to be involved in the cricket betting business.
Even as media representatives waited eagerly for Mr. Kundra’s response regarding the ongoing probe in spot-fixing, his questioning continued till late in the evening, and he was finally allowed to leave around 9 p.m.
When asked whether the RR team owner was being treated as a witness, another officer refused to confirm this stating that replies to the questions posed to him could throw up certain facts warranting further probe or action.
It is learnt that Mr. Kundra was initially asked about the activities of Sreesanth and the other former teammates. Terms and conditions of the tripartite agreements with the players were also shared and discussed.
The Special Cell had on Tuesday invoked stringent provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) against Sreesanth and 25 other accused, including bookies. Police investigations have revealed that the entire racket was being run under the protection and at the direction of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his aide Chhota Shakeel.
“We have sound proof to establish that the two top fugitives were involved in running the entire show. At this stage, we cannot reveal the exact nature of the evidence as it has to stand in the court at crucial stages of the proceedings,” said a police officer.
Apart from bookies Ashwini Aggrawal and Sunil Bhatia, besides Ramesh Vyas, who has been arrested by the Mumbai Police, the Special Cell has identified a couple of more bookies who were in direct touch with the underworld dons.
Accordingly, Dawood and Shakeel are from now on being treated as accused in the case. The police suspect that the two fugitives who operate from Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates through their conduits influenced betting rates, which were further circulated through the bookies working under their protection.
Rajasthan Royals ownership
Apart from Mr. Kundra, his business associate, Umesh Goenka, was also questioned on Wednesday. Police sources said the name of Goenka, with whom Kundra owns a company dealing in steel, came during the recording of the statement of Rajasthan Royals player Sidharth Trivedi, a prosecution witness in the case.
In his statement recorded before a magistrate, sources said, Trivedi claimed that Goenka approached him and sought details about the cricket pitch in Ahmedabad and details about team formations.
According to police sources, Kundra was called over the phone to appear before investigators who wanted to ask about the ownership details of Rajasthan Royals.
“Kundra told police that he owned 11.7 per cent while Suresh Chelaram, co-brother of Lalit Modi owned 43 per cent and Manoj Badale has 34 per cent. Rupert Murdoch’s son Lalchan Murdoch also has stake in the team,” a senior police official said.
Kundra, a British national, has 42 per cent stake in the steel business with Goenka who has 16 per cent shares in the firm, they said.