Two Indian nationals named in South Africa domestic spot-fixing scandal

Indian nationals Manesh Jain and Imran Muskan Shimji were named in South African court papers relating to former cricketer Gulam Bodi’s appearance on nine counts of corruption in the Pretoria Commercial Crimes Court just over a week ago.

The state did not oppose Bodi’s bail (set at R3000) but prosecutor Willem van Zyl set certain pre-conditions for the former professional cricketer: his passport was confiscated and he was prevented from contacting any of the players he recruited.

In January 2016, Bodi was suspended for 20 years by Cricket South Africa (CSA) for his role as a recruiting agent who linked Indian betting syndicates with South African domestic cricketers playing in the RAM SLAM T20 the previous December.

It appears as though Jain and Shimji played the role of intermediaries, reaching out to Bodi and introducing him to India-based illegal betting syndicates. Bodi visited India in August 2015 – a couple of months before the South African season was due to begin – to meet with Jain, Shimji and syndicate members.

While in India he was told that players participating in spot-fixing could expect to earn between R600000 – R700000 (~ 44000 – 52000 USD) per match. They were also promised luxury watches. Bodi himself was offered R150000 (~ 11000 USD) per match.

When he returned from India, Bodi busied himself recruiting. He’d played his last first-class cricket for the Lions towards the end of the 2014/15 season and still had friends in the Lions dressing-room. It emerged later that five of the six other players implicated in the spot-fixing scams and subsequent subterfuge were Lions. The other, Ethy Mbhalati, was nearing the end of a long and loyal career at the Titans.

Bodi used August and September to meet with players he thought would be pre-disposed to his overtures. He met some off them in car-parks, some in Portuguese-themed grilled chicken outlets and some in strip clubs in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. During the Africa T20, a pre-season tournament played by semi-professional South African teams at a variety of smaller venues, he approached Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Craig Alexander.

Both were playing for KwaZulu-Natal Inland at the time, and, in approaching them, Bodi made the first of several mistakes. Van Jaarsveld reported the overtures to Cricket South Africa’s anti-corruption unit. The unit was therefore alerted and they prepared themselves for the start of the RAM SLAM T20 due to take place later that year.

Two early matches in the tournament – the Lions away to the Dolphins at Kingsmead, and the Lions at home in Potch to the Titans – have since been identified as problematic. An unnamed spectator with a real-time betting platform on his mobile phone was escorted out of the ground in Potch, with a player’s father capturing the incident on his cell phone camera.

The match was low-scoring, the Lions only managing 115 batting first, with Thami Tsolekile scoring 58 of them. In reply, the Titans stumbled to 117 for six, winning by four wickets. “Something about that match just didn’t feel right from the beginning,” commented a Titans player afterwards.

Tsolekile was later named, along with Lions colleagues Alviro Petersen, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Jean Symes and Pumi Matshikewe, in the conspiracy to spot-fix during matches in that season’s RAM SLAM T20. In 2016, they and Mbhalati were banned by CSA for periods ranging from 2 to 12 years.

Court papers have also revealed that there was no match-fixing in the RAM SLAM per se but in all likelihood there were attempts – usually botched – to spot fix. Spot fixing could involve betting on a range of runs scored in an over or two or, for example, within a power-play. This type of fixing has a sinister edge because not only is it difficult to prove but it can take place without substantively affecting the outcome of a match. The result can remain the same but the integrity of the contest has nevertheless been violated.

Cellphone conversations – the players apparently communicated in an Esperanto-like code – were apparently crucial in the initial anti-corruption unit investigation. Cricbuzz also understands that some players implicated in the scandal – the first in South Africa cricket since the Hansie Cronje affair – have gone to ground, particularly after recent media reports suggested they might be facing jail time.

With Bodi scheduled to appear in court again in a month’s time, investigations are currently at an extremely sensitive stage. Not one of the several high-profile people involved in the case were prepared to offer comment when approached.

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