It is a mystery to police how Tinku Mandi became a reigning king in bookmaking in just a decade

How did the youngest son of a small-timer, in the space of just a decade, climb the ladder in the murky world of bookmaking and go on to become a reigning king, now owning properties worth crores, is a million-dollar question perplexing the Delhi Police. Belying his modest looks, Ashwini Aggrawal, arrested in the IPL spot-fixing case, allegedly started out as a punter and became notoriously known as Tinku Mandi in the country’s top betting circuits. A fully air-conditioned, sprawling three-storey building on the posh Tagore Road at Adarsh Nagar stands testimony to the wealth bookmaking business generates in such a short span of time. Locals say Aggrawal has been living there for the past three years with his elderly parents, wife and two children, apart from his elder brother and his family. With a video door answering system at the entrance staring visitors in the face, the house stands out in that lane. It is full of modern surveillance gizmos. A high-resolution closed-circuit television camera, perched atop the building, keeps a round-the-clock watch on visitors.

“Who allowed you in and who gave you the authority to pose questions to us? We do not have anything to say … go to the Special Cell and ask them those questions,” screamed a woman, coming out of the house soon after The Hindu team members — having been provided entry by domestic helps through the main iron gate — disclosed their identities, seeking to know the family’s version of why and how Aggrawal was arrested or whether he was wrongly arrested. All these questions remained unanswered.

But those in the neighbourhood had their own version of what they had seen and heard of Aggrawal. “Here it is an open secret that he is a bookmaker. He has made it big in the cricket betting world, but leads a modest life. It took 2-3 years for this house to be constructed. It is fitted with an elevator,” said a local, although he was initially hesitant to share any details of the alleged bookie, at whose instance six purported conduits were arrested in Goa a couple of days ago.

Going by what the police say, it was Aggrawal who had held meetings with suspended Rajasthan Royals cricketer Ajit Chandila through go-betweens Sunil Bhatia, former Ranji player Manish Guddewar and Kiran Dole for spot-fixing.

Not far from this posh locality is a modest four-storey building at Majlis Park, where Aggrawal, nicknamed Tinku since his childhood days, earlier lived with his family. “He comes from a place housing mostly those doing business in the nearby Azadpur Mandi and this is the reason why the word ‘Mandi’ got suffixed to his nickname,” said a police officer.

“He is a god-fearing and religious person. His father runs a mill at Alipur and has been supplying chickenfeed for the past several decades. We never saw Tinku indulging in any fight. In fact, he would prevent his relatives from entering into even heated exchanges with neighbours. He had a large circle of friends, several of them into betting. This is perhaps how he was introduced into this illegal business. But his father attempted to correct him and it led to altercations between them,” said a local at Majlis Park.

“Unlike his friends involved in betting — who lived lavishly, got addicted to alcohol, became quarrelsome and even bullied others around them — Aggrawal kept a relatively low profile, conducted himself orderly, led an austere life and built his empire brick by brick, saving the money he minted. He is a soft-spoken person ever ready to help out others,” said the area resident.

Locals said Tinku’s father had bought two floors of the Majlis Park property around 15 years ago for about Rs.12 lakh and moved in there from the nearby Indra Park residence. “He earlier helped his father in the family business. Later when he started making money, we would hear from his acquaintances that he would make trips to South Africa, Dubai and Australia. He stayed aloof and threw private parties for his relatives and friends outside the locality. However, he had invited his neighbours for his marriage,” said another resident.

When everything seemed going well for Tinku, the residents said, he was picked up by a special unit of the Delhi Police years ago. “He then came out and started afresh. Since then we had never seen police coming to the Majlis Park house.”

However, after the Special Cell sniffed out spot-fixing and made initial arrests, over a dozen men in plainclothes swooped down on the Adarsh Nagar house of Aggrawal around 5 a.m. one day, taking him by surprise, said the residents. “They whisked him away, taking along his Audi car and a bag. Aggrawal presently owns eight cars,” revealed one of them.

More In: National | News