Neeraj Kumar, Commissioner of Delhi Police, has been at the forefront of the spot-fixing investigation over the past week. Speaking to Wisden India, Kumar confirmed that at least four - not three as reported earlier - more cricketers are on their radar, and he thinks that with the material the police have at their disposal, the chances of the arrested cricketers getting bail is remote. Excerpts:
Mr Kumar, it's been just over a week since you arrested S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan. How has the case progressed so far?
The investigation has progressed very well from our point of view. We have made lots of recoveries from the hotel rooms, and other premises of the cricketers; we have collected voice samples from the three of them, which have been sent to the forensic lab for matching with our intercepts. Now, a stage has been reached where we are very close to another team, and we have received information about three ... no, four players from that team.
The three cricketers from Rajasthan (Royals) cannot deny what we have on record, and they cannot deny the sequence of events. So yes, the probe is coming along well.
You had earlier said that three cricketers from another IPL team are on your radar, now you're saying there are four cricketers?
How soon can we expect an update on them?
Within the next 48 hours, hopefully. So on Sunday, I think.
Are you in a position to tell us which team this is?
Not right now.
You have answered this before, but I want to ask you again for the record - what started off the investigation from your end?
We were tracking some phones as part of a counter-terrorism operation. We chanced upon these conversations where cricket was being discussed, and we realised that bookies are in conversation with cricketers. The bookies were trying to compromise the cricketers ... that's how it happened. It's a lot like earlier (in 1999-2000), when we intercepted conversations by chance.
Since your arrests, Mr Kumar, most of the progress seems to have been made by the Mumbai Police. Are the two of you working together on this, sharing information?
No, they are looking at a different set of transactions from us. So our paths haven't crossed yet. If we need to exchange information, we will. We are looking at the crime that has been committed by the bookies and the cricketers where money has changed hands. That's the scope of our investigation. I am not privy to what's being done by the Mumbai Police.
Is there any scope of a clash between the two investigations?
We are looking at a certain set of bookies and cricketers, and they are looking at other people. There's no clash at all. It's not like we are ignoring the bookies. They are very much a part of our probe. We are looking both at the cricketers and at the bookies. The transactions we are looking at involve both.
What about the possible involvement of M Gurunath, the Team Principal of the Chennai Super Kings team?
I have no clue. He is not a part of our probe.
But with his name coming out, the BCCI is being pushed into a corner too.
I can't say anything about that.
What do you make of the BCCI's role in this - do you think they could have done more to prevent this situation from cropping up?
I don't really know how the BCCI works, and what they can or can't do. But yes, more vigilance is needed. A lot of what happens takes place quite openly. More vigilance can definitely help. See, we are trying to get as many bookies as we can and identify cricketers and do our investigations. That's our job. Of course, new information comes in and that expands the ambit of the case. But it's our job to follow those leads. But some of this work has to be done by the (cricket) administrators.
One of the suggestions we keep hearing is that betting should be legalised and that will help the situation. What's your take on that?
Even if you legalise betting, people who want to bet with their black money will not be able to use the legal betting channels. Unlike in the west, where it is legal and people pay by cheques and get the rewards by cheques. Here, people have black money. So legalising will not help. This sort of thing will carry on.
Coming back to the arrests you have made - where do the three cricketers stand at the moment?
I am quite confident that we have a strong case. We'll have to wait for the judicial scrutiny to be conducted. Also, we have to hear the defence lawyers. The Rajasthan management has given us the contracts of these three players and that helped us a lot, because we could add an additional charge for Section 409 (under Indian Penal Code) for criminal breach of trust. [Initially, cases had been filed under sections 420 and 120(b) for cheating and criminal conspiracy respectively]
On the expiry of their police remand, they will be taken to court. There are two possibilities after that. Either they get bail, which is rather remote to my mind. Chances are that they would go into judicial custody. We will try to chargesheet the accused soon as well.
Of the three, the feeling we get from reports and statements by the police is that Ajit Chandila is probably deeper into the mess than the others - is that correct?
I can't comment on that. It's a case of criminal conspiracy, so everybody is equal. So it's not fair to say anything on that at the moment. Let the court decide.
Lastly, Rebecca John, Sreesanth's lawyer, has accused you of leaking information selectively to the media. What do you have to say about that?
Leaking information! What leaks? What information have we leaked? Not at all. Whatever is in the media has been discussed in the courts and we have made official statements to the media. The media would come to know of everything from the courts anyway. So this (charge) is not justified.