Azharuddin, the `50-million-dollar man'

By's Rob Edwards
Guyana Chronicle
July 25, 2000

FORMER Indian skipper Mohammed Azharuddin has become a multi-millionaire from the proceeds of fixing cricket matches, an Australian television report has claimed.

The long-running ABC's Four Corners television programme claimed Azharuddin made around $50 million from match-fixing, sourcing the allegations to a senior Indian tax official.

Vishwa Gupta told the programme that earlier this year the Indian government launched a tax amnesty for people to report ill-gotten gains.

"Several cricketers chose to declare huge sums of money they had earned," Gupta said.

"We have a very leading cricket player, who I don't want to name because it will violate my official position .... We became aware he could be in possession of ... $50 million and we were very clear he had no access to such income officially.

"Then we started getting this feeling that all this money had actually accrued through fixing matches (but) we still don't have any conclusive evidence of that."

However, Four Corners said it has since emerged that the "50-million-dollar man" was Azharuddin.

The revelation comes just days after Indian tax officers raided the homes of Azharuddin and former team-mates Nayan Mongia, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Jadeja, former world record wicket-taker Kapil Dev and the outgoing president of the International Cricket Council, Jagmohan Dalmiya.

All the players have denied ever being involved in match-fixing.

Gupta subsequently lost his job for disclosing information he had gained from his job. The Four Corners story on match-fixing also showed bribery had been happening in India for a quarter of a century and that the ICC had been active in covering up allegations so as not to harm the image of cricket.

Bombay police, the programme said, have been keeping tabs on match-fixing for 25 years - going back to when Sunil Gavaskar was the team captain.

Players got fabulously rich because they took the bribes - about $90 000 per match - and used it to bet on the opposition.

It was implied the Bombay police were powerless to act on their information because most of it had been obtained illegally. And Gupta said the bribery could only take place if officials turned a blind eye.

"I am firmly of the view that no match-fixing can take place without the connivance of the (Indian cricket) board officials - they're quite aware."

And when allegations did surface, in the form of Australians Mark Waugh, Shane Warne and Tim May accusing Pakistan captain Salim Malik of offering bribes in 1994, the matter was kept quiet for as long as possible.

In hindsight, this shouldn't have happened according to incoming ICC president, Australian Malcolm Gray.

"We should have acted sooner, we should have acted with greater alacrity and we should have done it better. We didn't," Gray said on the same programme.

Gray was on the Australian Cricket Board which decided to hush-up the fact that Warne and Waugh had themselves taken money from an Indian bookmaker. He maintained it was the right decision at the time but in hindsight it was "absolutely wrong and silly".

The simmering problem of match-fixing erupted with Hansie Cronje's admission to taking money from a bookmaker but ICC chief executive David Richards refused to acknowledge the game had a disaster which was spiralling out of control.

When it was put to him on the programme that match-fixing had flourished under his seven-year tenure, Richards said: "I think it's a matter of great regret for the sport that some of these allegations have been proved but the vast number of allegations have been innuendo - they have not been proved.

"It's not proved that corruption has flourished."

However, Gray laughed off Richards' claim.

"All I can say is Blind Freddy can tell you that it's flourished in the last seven years - there's no doubts about that."

But as to whether the ICC's newly-established anti-corruption commission can fix the problem, Gray was sceptical.

When it was pointed out that the commission's inability to examine financial records made it hard to actually uncover any corruption, Gray replied: "Well, it won't be easy."

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today