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Bollywood star's husband interrogated in Indian cricket scandal

MGN Online
Friday, June 7, 2013 - 11:00pm

for CNN

(CNN) -- Another top team official has been implicated in Indian cricket's corruption scandal, which centers around illegal gambling on the country's popular Twenty20 tournament.

After last month's arrest of Gurunath Meiyappan -- formerly on the management staff of Indian Premier League team the Chennai Super Kings -- for his alleged involvement in betting in this year's competition, an IPL team owner is now under police radar.

Raj Kundra, a co-owner of Rajasthan Royals along with his Bollywood actress wife Shilpa Shetty, has been interrogated by Delhi Police for his alleged role in spot-fixing -- a practice which involves prearranging certain incidents to occur during a match.

After a 12-hour interview Thursday, police officials claimed Kundra has admitted to betting and said they have confiscated his passport while the investigation continues.

"During police interrogation, Kundra admitted to betting on his own team, Rajasthan Royals," Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar told CNN. "He used to do so through his aide Umesh Goenka, a bookie. According to our information he also lost a large amount of money in betting."

However, Kumar said Kundra cannot be arrested as police don't yet have "prosecutable evidence against him."

Police have also learned about the possible involvement of Shetty, but have yet to decide if she will be questioned. The couple has an 11.7% stake in the Royals worth a reported $15 million.

The Royals issued a joint statement from franchise chairman Ranjit Barthakur and CEO Raghu Iyer saying they are "cooperating with the authorities to ensure a thorough inquiry."

"Mr. Raj Kundra is a minority shareholder, and he has no involvement in the running of the franchise," they said.

"We believe that Mr. Raj Kundra is a law-abiding citizen and would not act contrary to law. If however, he is proven guilty, or has breached any regulations, he will be suspended, and he will also forfeit his shares."

Kundra also released a statement, insisting: "I have done no wrong for which I need to have any regrets."

"I satisfactorily replied to the queries raised by the police and they accordingly allowed me to leave after my questioning," he said.

"However as the case develops, in due process, it may become necessary for the police to question me further.

"I have not committed any wrong and am myself extremely anxious to know the whole truth. If an iota of wrongdoing is finally established against me I would unhesitatingly forfeit my share in the franchise."

After Kundra's alleged confession to his involvement in IPL match-fixing, Indian cricket's ruling body -- the BCCI -- has convened an emergency working committee meeting of its board in New Delhi on June 10.

While betting/gambling is a bailable offense under CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure), BCCI rules are rather stringent. According to Clause 11.3 (c) of BCCI-IPL Franchisee agreement, any act of the owner that brings the Board or IPL to disrepute will call in for annulment of agreement with the franchisee.

When questioned whether Rajasthan Royals will be terminated from IPL, the BCCI's interim chief Jagmohan Dalmiya told reporters: "Raj Kundra's issue would be discussed in the working committee to be held on June 10 after we look into the details. If it demands any strict action we will look into it."

The arrest of Meiyappan caused big concern for the BCCI as he is the son-in-law of its president Narayanaswami Sreenivasan, who is the Chennai team principal. Sreenivasan has stood down from his BCCI role while the investigation continues.

Meanwhile, a Mumbai court Friday adjourned the bail plea of Indian cricketer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth until Monday.

He had approached the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) Court after a Delhi court rejected his bail plea and extended his judicial custody until June 18.

Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila were the first cricketers to be arrested in the IPL spot-fixing case. All three have played for Rajasthan Royals.

Another controversy has clouded Indian cricket, with national team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni being accused of having a conflict of interest for having stakes in the sports management company, Rhiti Sports.

It also handles accounts for his fellow India internationals Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha. The firm has denied that Dhoni has stakes in the company.

When quizzed about the BCCI's take on Dhoni's alleged conflict of interest issues, Dalmiya said: "We will not cover up Dhoni's links with Rhiti Sports, if any. But at this point when the team is busy with Champions Trophy (in England). We will not achieve anything by disturbing the atmosphere."
 

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