It has always been known that cricket betting in India — though illegal — is a high stakes game, involving some fabulous amounts of money. Now, the ED, investigating IPL spot-fixing, has revealed it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
The Enforcement Directorate has found that just one UK-based betting website, www.betfair.com, has seen remittances amounting to at least $3,000 crore (about Rs 1.9 lakh crore) — almost five times the size of Delhi budget — through 10 million login IDs that originated in India. The ED tracks money-laundering and investigates foreign exchange violations.
ED investigators, who stumbled upon the information during the spot-fixing probe, said it could just be the tip of the iceberg. The actual amounts could be much higher.
“There are one crore login IDs from India on betfair.com and these accounts average a transaction of $3,000 (Rs 1.9 lakh),” said an ED officer on condition of anonymity.
The website continues to be accessible to Indian users despite a 2010 Bombay high court order asking the site to be blocked within three months. But, ED officials said, no action was taken. A Hindustan Times reporter created a login ID on Friday.
Such websites, said sources, allowed bookies to operate from anywhere in the world, making it tough for enforcement agencies to crack down.
Sports betting is legal in many countries, including the UK.
“There are cases where bookies or their men sit abroad and conduct transactions. They accept money (bets) in rupees in India, and pay the website in dollars. In the process, huge amounts of money are remitted outside the country,” the officer said.
When the cricket season opens, top bookies move out of India and operate their accounts from countries such as the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Singapore, Thailand and enclaves such as Macau and Hong Kong.
The bookies, according to the investigators, acquire a “super master” account that gives them control over 10 “master” accounts. Each of the “master” account further creates 300 sub-login accounts.
Account-sharing, said the investigators, was hierarchical.
The bookies with “super master” accounts pass on “master” accounts to their partners in India and Pakistan, who further give sub-login accounts to small-time bookies and punters.
“This is how the number of users multiply and bookies get huge commissions,” the ED officer said.