How a kidnapping case blew the lid off l'affaire Cronje

In 1999, Delhi Police's anti-extortion cell was probing the sensational kidnapping of the scion of a Karol Bagh-based pharmaceutical businessman in which ransom calls were being made from Dubai. Extensive surveillance was mounted on possible suspe...

AFP
South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje
NEW DELHI: In 1999, Delhi Police's anti-extortion cell was probing the sensational kidnapping of the scion of a Karol Bagh-based pharmaceutical businessman in which ransom calls were being made from Dubai. Extensive surveillance was mounted on possible suspects who might throw up leads.

One of the numbers under surveillance belonged to one Sanjeev Chawla, but it went off the radar after being switched off for a few weeks. Sometime later, the number came alive and the police intercepted a series of conversations with a "foreigner". Inspector Ishwar Singh, who heard all the conversations out of plain curiosity, was left startled by what he ended up listening to.

A quick probe into the antecedents of the number revealed that the foreigner allegedly conversing with Chawla was South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje. The police dug deeper, and soon unearthed one of the biggest ever match-fixing scandals.


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Chawla was found to be in touch with punters across India to fix the highest bidder.

During one conversation tapped by the anti-extortion cell, the police heard him telling someone: "The captain will come to my room." They were not sure which captain he was talking about. However, they soon learned that Chawla had a meeting on March 14, 2000 in room 346 of a 5-star hotel in Delhi. After scanning the hotel records, they found that he had met Cronje. It also emerged that ODIs played between India and South Africa in March 2000 had been fixed for "exchange or consideration" of money.
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The case eventually went cold, but got a fresh lease of life in 2013 when then police commissioner Neeraj Kumar reopened it while investigating the IPL spot-fixing racket.

On Thursday, Kumar told a news agency that it was during the IPL probe that a media person had pointed out that not even a chargesheet had been filed in the case. "I asked the then DCP (crime), Alok Kumar, to pursue an extradition and file a chargesheet. I even got in touch with the CBI for this. It was found that the files were lying at the Ashok Vihar police station. It was revived and the chargesheet was filed a day before my retirement," he said.
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In 2016, the crime branch moved court for extradition. Since then the foreign ministry, intelligence wing and Delhi Police had been doggedly pursuing Chawla's extradition.
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