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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 21:21 GMT
MK, the bookie
Indian journalist Sandeep Singh profiles the man whose words have thrown cricket into turmoil with his allegations published in the latest report into cricket corruption.
Mukesh Kumar Gupta, the man whose evidence has damned several leading cricketers in the murky match-fixing drama, is a self-confessed 'bookie' who retired from the trade three years ago to settle down as a 'respectable' businessman.
Popularly known as MK, this well-known middle-aged jeweller of the Indian capital shot into notoriety when former South African skipper Hansie Cronje dropped his name during the King Commission's hearing last summer.
From the shadows of a cash-flushed New Delhi jeweller emerged a notorious bookmaker, who claimed to have retired a couple of seasons ago, but confessed during his grilling by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to have bribed several players during a decade-lone stint as a 'cricket bookie'.
Lowly bank clerk
The erstwhile clerk in a nationalised bank, MK's life is a story of a lowly-paid bank employee trying his hand at several businesses before settling down amidst the glitter of gold and sparkling diamonds.
But what few knew - until the Cronje testimony - was that this jeweller doubled as an 'illegal' bookmaker (all forms of betting except at select horse racing courses is illegal in India) who befriended cricketers and 'fixed' matches to their mutual benefit.
Once he had crossed the cricketing threshold of becoming an insider, MK claims, the rest was easy. Confidential introduction from one compromising cricketer to another, his testimony revealed, was a cakewalk.
He told the CBI sleuths that former Indian international Ajay Sharma, a friend of 16 years, introduced him to Azharuddin in 1995 and Azhar, in turn, put him in touch with Cronje the following year when the South Africans were touring India.
MK had an inclination of hooking men who would later become captains of their respective countries - a fact illuminated by the list of eight captains of different countries whom he claims to have bribed during his time.
Adorned with well-cut diamonds in his rings, MK projects the cultivated image of an upwardly mobile yuppie with expensive tastes. The smart watches and accompanying jewellery is usually for effect.
A palatial mansion in an upmarket residential colony and his jewellery showroom in the posh south Delhi locality bear testimony to MK having arrived among the city's elite long ago.
MK twisted his long-time fascination for the sport into a profitable venture by "going into cricket" - a euphamism for turning into a bookmaker - in 1988 and, according to his confession, retired in 1997.
He is also said to be the person whom Australian Test cricketers Shane Warne and Mark Waugh termed 'John' while admitting to having received money from an Indian bookmaker.
MK turned out to be the most critical cog in CBI's investigation after every cricketer, to begin with, outrightly rejected suggestions of being hand in glove with the bookies.
It was MK's confessions which opened the Pandora's box.
Life in the cricket bookmaker's lane will never be the same: the passage from ignonimity to limelight was brisk for the man who opened his 'erstwhile' account-books and gave the investigators an insight into the sordid affair.
Far from being shunned by the public, his jewellery showroom has been attracting onlookers just for curiosity sake.
And for all the confessions made by him, which makes him the central figure in the current investigations, MK has not been formally charged in any case related to match-fixing so far.
His name did not figure anywhere in Delhi Police's case against Cronje in which another New Delhi businessman Sanjeev Chawla, who presently lives in London, was named as the co-accused.
Under India's criminal law, MK and other bookmakers - and cricketers - can only be charged for cheating (the paying public) and criminal conspiracy, but the legal opinion is divided about these accusations standing the scrutiny of the courts.
The income tax and enforcement directorate might have a smoother ride in dealing with the ill-earned fortunes of these bookmakers and 'tainted' cricketers.
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