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The BBC's John McIntyre
"A scandal that stretches across continents"
 real 28k

Tax investigator Swarup Parija
"We had made discreet inquiries before we moved in"
 real 28k

Friday, 21 July, 2000, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Tax blitz hits cricket stars
Azharuddin's Hyderabad home
The taxmen raided Azharuddin's houses
Indian tax officials say they have found evidence of undisclosed assets from the homes and offices of leading cricket stars.

Hundreds of investigators completed surprise raids on Friday on 84 properties spread across seven Indian cities, seizing documents and sealing bank lockers.


We have recovered some papers indicating unaccounted investments, some cash and jewellery

Tax official PK Sarma
Top players Kapil Dev, Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja were among those whose premises were raided.

Bookmakers, a television magnate and officials - including the former president of the International Cricket Council, Jagmohan Dalmiya - also come under scrutiny.

Officials say they found evidence of huge real estate investments as well as massive bank balances.

"We have recovered some papers indicating unaccounted investments, some cash and jewellery," Bombay tax investigator, PK Sarma, told French news agency AFP.

One report quoted an unnamed inspector saying he discovered evidence of "very lavish lifestyles that cannot even be thought of".

Surprise raid

The sudden raids have taken India by storm, in a country that reveres its cricket heroes as gods.

Crowds of spectators and scores of journalists gathered outside the homes of the stars, hoping to catch a glimpse of the activity inside.

Some of the players were out of the country, but others were present when the taxmen turned up at their front door.

Raided
Kapil Dev
Azharuddin
Ajay Jadeja
Nayan Mongia
Jagmohan Dalmiya
Nikhil Chopra
Navjot Sidhu
Manoj Prabhakar
Senior tax investigator, Swarup Parija said the inspectors were polite and did not harass the stars.

"We were nice to them because they have brought credit and honour to the country," he said.

On Thursday, Indian newspapers reflected on the growing concern about the country's favourite sport, where top players are revered as gods.

  • "Captains raided, cricket shamed," said The Asian Age in a banner headline on its front-page.
  • The Indian Express reported that the raids were codenamed Operation Gentleman - an apparent reference to the game's reputation as a gentleman's sport.
  • The Times of India said the operation had been carefully planned.

"Each [tax inspection] team was given an envelope which was to be opened only at a particular time.

"The idea was that the different raiding teams would strike at approximately the same time," the newspaper reported.

Match-fixing

The inspectors are looking for any evidence of undeclared income or assets.

A separate criminal inquiry into match-fixing is being conducted by India's federal investigating agency, the CBI.

Mr Parija said any evidence that could be used to establish a link between the cricket players and bookmakers would be handed over to the CBI.

The scandal broke in April, when Delhi police disclosed that they had recorded conversations between the captain of the South African team, Hansie Cronje, and a bookmaker.

Cronje was later sacked when he admitted to accepting money from bookmakers in exchange for information.

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See also:

20 Jul 00 | South Asia
Tax raids on Indian cricket stars
28 Apr 00 | South Asia
High-level cricket inquiry in India
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