Nationwide IT raids on cricketers

NEW DELHI, JULY 20. In a nationwide swoop today, officials of the Income Tax Department conducted searches and surveys at the residential and official premises of leading cricketers, their associates, high-profile bookies and sports administrators, including former Indian captains, Kapil Dev and Mohammad Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja and former International Cricket Council Chairman, Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya. The raids, triggered off by allegations of match-fixing, led to detection of large-scale evidence of undisclosed income in many cases as well as seizure of incriminating documents. The Central Bureau of Investigation was also associated with the operations.

In Delhi, raids were also conducted at the residential and office premises of cricketers Ajay Jadeja, Nikhil Chopra and Ajay Sharma while similar operations in other cities included the premises of former film actress and Azharuddin's wife, Ms. Sangeeta Bijlani, former members of the Indian team, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Manoj Prabhakar. The leading bookies who were raided included a prominent bookie of Ahmedabad, Mr. Hiran Hathi, the Delhi-based bookie Mukesh Gupta (also known as ``MK'' who was named by South African captain, Hansie Cronje), Mr. Hans Kumar Jain, Mr. Deepak Kumar, Mr. Deepak Yudhistar and Ms. Jyoti, Mr Anand Saxena and Mr. Rajesh Jain.

Raids were also conducted at the Delhi residential and office premises of Mr. Karan Dubey, a business associate-cum- employee of Kapil Dev. He is learnt to be closely associated with all the dealings of Kapil Dev.

Sources in the Revenue Department said over 50 bank accounts and lockers were sealed during the country-wide searches. In all, about 89 premises were searched in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Patiala, Chandigarh, Calcutta, Jaipur and Ghaziabad. Nearly 39 premises were searched in Delhi alone.

Kapil Dev and his wife, Ms. Romi Dev, were present at their Sunder Nagar residence in the capital when the raids were on. Also present at his New Delhi residence was Manoj Prabhakar when search operations began there. All the three have made their preliminary statements to the Income Tax authorities.

However, Mohammad Azahruddin, and his wife were away in London when searches were conducted at their Hyderabad and Mumbai properties today. Similarly, Jadeja, Nikhil Chopra and Ajay Sharma were reported to be in London and could not be questioned.

It is learnt that tax sleuths were able to lay their hands on sensitive information including some incriminating documents, computer floppies, e-mail accounts and D-Mat accounts providing an insight into the massive investments made by the cricketers and the bookies in real estate, purchase of property, buying of expensive commodities, expensive gifts received by them, information about their bank accounts, lockers and other financial transactions.

The former ICC Chairman, Mr. Jagmoham Dalmiya, who was in Delhi was learnt to have been questioned by the tax authorities in a five-star hotel.

The Director General (Investigations), Mr. S. C. Parija, told reporters in Delhi that the searches were conducted after obtaining authentic information through precise intelligence during the past two months. The tax officials have seized sensitive documents, bank accounts and account books which gave evidence of concealed income and under-valuing of assets, he said. Asked whether the documents seized indicated match-fixing by these individuals, Mr.Parija said if these people were unable to explain the income from undisclosed sources, it could be indicative of payments received from bookies or from their associates.

Mr. Parija said information gathered so far had also indicated that the cricketers had received very expensive gifts and made investments in buying flats at exorbitant rates, received and made big payments and also had received remittances which had not been reflected in the tax returns.

He said the searches were still going on and were likely to continue late into the night.

Our Staff Reporter reports from Bangalore:

The Union Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Dhananjaya Kumar, today revealed that raids on cricketers, bookies and administrators in several parts of the country had yielded incriminating documents

At a press conference here, he said the Worldtel president, Mr. Mark Mascarenhas' office in Bangalore was also searched and his involvement in match-fixing was under investigation. Asked whether Mr. Mascarenhas was considered a bookmaker, the Minister said he certainly was not in the category of a cricketer or an administrator.