ICC says criminalising match-fixing in India would be a game changer

Absence of specific laws against fixing in the country biggest roadblock for investigators

Sport is more susceptible to match-fixing due to the financial constraints caused by the coronavirus paandemic, experts warn. Satish Kumar / The National
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Criminalising match-fixing in India would be “game changing” for the world game, according to a senior official for the International Cricket Council (ICC) anti-corruption unit.

Steve Richardson, the coordinator of investigations for the unit, said on Saturday there are nearly 50 active investigations into cases of corruption across the international game ongoing.

“The majority of those have links back to corruptors in India,” said Richardson, speaking in an online forum organised by the Sports Law and Policy Centre in Bengaluru.

“It would be the single most effective thing to happen, in terms of protecting the sport, if India introduced match-fixing legislation.”

Five UAE players have been suspended from playing since last October as part of investigations into corruption in the game here.

Three of them – Mohammed Naveed, Shaiman Anwar, and Qadeer Ahmed – are charged with a variety of breaches of cricket's anti-corruption code.

It is understood each case involves approaches from Indian nationals to fix aspects of matches.

While gambling on matches India is illegal, there is no specific law against fixing in sport.

“As far as legislation is concerned, it is an anomaly that you could bet 500 rupees [Dh24] on the outcome of a match for a side to win or lose in India, and that would be illegal,” Richardson said.

“However, if you offered $30,000 [Dh110,000] to a player to underperform in that match, there is nothing illegal in that.”

Although the ICC are able to take action against players who corrupt the game, the organisers of fixing are beyond their jurisdiction unless they are deemed a “participant in the sport”.

Indian police are operating with one hand tied behind their backs

For example, Deepak Agarwal was named in the investigation that led to Bangladesh star Shakib Al Hasan being banned for two years last year as being "known to the ACU," and "suspected of being involved in corruption in cricket".

They were unable to bring any charges against him in that case. However, the Indian businessman, has since been banned from the game for two years for a separate case, after he briefly had an official association with a franchise in the T10 League in the UAE.

Richardson said he does not regard players as the main problem when it comes to match-fixing, but considers them the “final link in the chain”.

He says he could deliver “at least eight names” to the Indian police of serial offenders who attempt to corrupt players.

But he feels “a lack of legislative framework” in the country means their power to bring charges would be limited.

Last year, Sri Lanka became the first country in Asia to criminalise match-fixing in sport, and Richardson hopes India can follow suit.

“The principals are the same, whether you are investigating international drug-dealing, as I used to do, or whether you are investigating match-fixing within a sport,” he said.

“Sometimes you will only get people near the bottom of the food chain.

"At other times you have the ability to move up the chain, gather evidence and take out some of the top people as well.

“I think it is recognised internationally within law enforcement, that the way you deal with a problem is not so much by dealing with the people at the bottom.

“It is by taking out the more senior people, the organisers, the people who are putting money up.

“Sometimes these chains are very, very small. They are people who are involved in betting who take an opportunity to corrupt a player, offer them money, and if that player takes it, then obviously the player is culpable.

“We can, and will, deal with that – but it is the people outside the sport who are responsible.”

India is due to host two major ICC events in the coming years, the 2021 T20 World Cup, and the 50-over World Cup in 2023.

“We have good relationships with the Indian police, but at the moment they are operating with one hand tied behind their backs,” Richardson said.

“We will do everything we can to disrupt the corruptors, and we do. We make life very, very difficult for them as much as we can, to stop them from operating freely.

“But, the legislation [to criminalise fixing] would be a game-changer in India.”