In dramatic airport arrest, police foil escape by key link in bookie-fixer nexus

Mohammad Yahya, a middle-aged man who has worked in Bollywood movies as a spot boy with legendary actors such as Dilip Kumar, was arrested in Hyderabad by the Delhi Police Special Cell when he was about to board a flight to Dubai on Thursday night. A “key” link in the entire chain of bookie-fixer nexus, he was tasked with contacting cricketers participating in the Indian Premier League and luring them into the murky business of spot-fixing, the police said.

One IPL player, of a team other than Rajasthan Royals, underperformed during the current tournament following an agreement with the bookies facilitated by Yahya, the police said. The cricketer will be arrested once more facts on his complicity are gathered during Yahya’s interrogation, which will begin once the police get his custody. The role of some other IPL players is also being examined.

The breakthrough came after one of Yahya’s pseudonyms figured during disclosures made by an alleged bookie Chandresh Patel, who had come into contact with him before the commencement of the IPL series. “Chandresh identified the person as Yusuf, who operated from Mumbai and hailed from Hyderabad. We immediately got a lookout circular issued, but did not have the suspect’s photograph or particulars, apart from some mobile phones he had used in the past,” said a police officer.

The dramatic sequence of events that led to Yahya’s arrest began with teams being despatched to Hyderabad following a tip-off that someone had arranged for his escape to Dubai from Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. “After the first series of arrests was made, Yahya went to Hyderabad to meet his family before fleeing the country. But suspecting that we would be keeping a watch, he stayed away from the house, where his wife and children live in. Based on an input that he would board a flight on Thursday night, we stationed a team at the airport.” The team, with the help of the immigration unit, examined particulars of all passengers. “However, there was no one by the name of Yusuf. Since the accused was using the same phone which was under surveillance and as we had his physical description as disclosed by Patel, details of the passengers were again examined and we zeroed in on the person who was travelling in the name of Mohammad Yahya,” the officer said. Yahya’s passport was issued from Mumbai.

The policemen at the airport captured the suspect’s photograph from his travel documents and forwarded it to their colleagues in Delhi via Whatsapp software. Chandresh then confirmed that it was indeed Yahya.

However, Yahya had by then crossed over to the secured area after immigration clearance and was awaiting the boarding announcement, when the police swooped down on him. “It was indeed a close finish. Had we not acted in time, he would have left the country,” said the officer. He added that a bookie who had introduced Yahya to the betting business and the person who was helping him escape to Dubai were yet to be arrested.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that Yahya came to Mumbai in 1984 and started working as a spot boy and till recently he was working in the film industry.

In due course, he made contacts with bookies and handlers, at whose instance he started working for them after 2010. “He had contacted several IPL cricketers apart from those from the Rajasthan Royals team. Although many names have cropped up, it is on gathering concrete evidence that we lay our hands on anyone. This would involve a thorough probe. Whether Yahya had links with the underworld is not known yet. However, he was a key link between the bookies and the fixers,” the officer told The Hindu.

Second phone seized

Meanwhile, the Special Cell has seized the second mobile phone (Blackberry Bold) which the arrested paceman Sreesanth allegedly gifted to a female friend in Jaipur. “His girlfriend, from whom we had earlier seized the first mobile phone, works as an air hostess, whereas this girl is not employed. They had met him at a dinner,” the officer added.

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