Raj Kundra and his wife Indian Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. -Photo by AFP
NEW DELHI: A co-owner of an Indian Premier League team on Thursday became the latest person embroiled in a growing spot-fixing and betting scandal after he admitted illegal gambling, police said.
Raj Kundra, co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals franchise and husband of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, has been ordered to hand over his passport to police probing illegal betting and alleged corrupt links between players and organised crime syndicates.
London-based businessman Kundra and Shetty -- who won UK reality show “Big Brother” in 2007 -- became part-owners of the Rajasthan Royals in 2009, the year they were married.
“He (Kundra) has been called (for questioning) because we came to know through interrogation that he himself used to bet and he has admitted he put money on his own team,” Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar told reporters.
“We also found he lost large sums of money through betting.”
Another senior Delhi police officer who is investigating the case said Kundra admitted that his wife had placed one bet in the last three years.
“Kundra made a reference that Shetty had placed a bet,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Shetty could be summoned by Delhi police in the coming days but the actress has rejected all the allegations.
“For those who care, my apparent involvement in betting is complete nonsense,” Shetty wrote on Twitter.
“I have never bet on any cricket match ever. Truth will prevail.”
Investigators said Kundra and his friend Umesh Goenka who lives in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, regularly placed bets.
“Kundra gave information about the pitch and Goenka placed the bets,” the official added.
So far, three players from the Rajasthan Royals and numerous bookmakers are among those arrested over allegations of spot-fixing and betting during the recently completed edition of the cash-rich Twenty20 tournament.
Test bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and two of his teammates have been accused of deliberately bowling badly in specific IPL matches in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars after striking deals with bookies.
A court this week denied them bail after police said they now had evidence, including telephone intercepts, linking international organised crime syndicates to the scandal.
The betting and fixing scandal has shaken confidence in the game and enraged fans across India.
Police commissioner Kumar said the probe into the scandal was being widened, threatening more damage to the top of the IPL competition, which features domestic and international players.
“Right now we cannot say which direction the investigation will go, or what else will surface in the future,” Kumar said.
Spot-fixing, in which a specific part of the match but not the outcome is rigged, is illegal. Betting on the IPL is also illegal under India's laws which ban gambling on all sports but horse racing.
Among those already arrested are the son-in-law of the Indian cricket board chief, Gurunath Meiyappan, for allegedly placing bets on matches. Meiyappan, who was granted bail by a court this week, is an executive of the Chennai Super Kings, another IPL team.
N. Srinivasan has been forced to step aside as president of the Indian sport's governing body while an internal investigation into the scandal takes place.
Ex-Bangladesh skipper and national hero Mohammad Ashraful on Tuesday admitted wrongdoing after he was suspended from the sport by Bangladesh's cricket chiefs over allegations of fixing during international matches and a domestic Twenty20 tournament.