S Sreesanth’s troubles seemed to get bigger with the Mumbai Police on Saturday seizing several of his personal belongings and indicating it might book him in a separate spot-fixing case and seek his custody.
The former India international faced Delhi Police interrogators for the second day running, but this time it was in the company of his Rajasthan Royals teammates Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan. The police claimed they had “strong evidence” against the Kerala pacer and, hence, did not feel the need to conduct searches at his house “as of now”.
The action in Mumbai started Friday night with the crime branch raiding a five-star hotel and seizing a laptop, iPad, mobile phone, diaries and Rs. 72,000 in cash from a room occupied by Sreesanth. Another iPad and cellphone were seized from the adjacent room, occupied by his friend Jiju Janardhan.Sreesanth had checked into the hotel on the night of May 13, joint commissioner of police (crime) Himanshu Roy said.
He and Jiju were arrested by a Delhi Police team on May 15. “We are trying to recreate their movements on May 14 and 15,” said Roy.
The Mumbai crime branch has got court permission to extract data from the laptop, is looking at three diaries with notes in English and Malayalam in the cricketer’s hand and is also looking into CCTV footage from the hotel, Roy said. “We believe the seizure is important given the direction in which the spot-fixing investigation is headed.”
The crime branch also made another arrest, of bookie Pankaj Shah alias Lotus, said to be a big operator in the Thane area, on Saturday. He was arrested on the basis of the interrogation of the other accused.
In another blow to Sreesanth, police sources revealed that the pacer had met a prominent bookie, Manan, at a restaurant in the city. Manan, they said, had convinced the cricketer to get into the fixing game and supplied him with girls and money. He had also advised Sreesanth not to make his dealings on phone but to use chat applets using voice over internet protocol.
“This is one of the main reasons why it has been tough to prove that Sreesanth spoke to the bookies from his cellphone,” said a senior investigating officer.
The Indian cricket board had sniffed a spot-fixing scandal in the domestic T20 league in the first week of May itself and had approached the Jaipur Police, which had busted a betting racket and arrested eight bookies.
"A three-member team of the BCCI approached us for information gathered from the arrested bookies. We shared what we had," additional commissioner of police (crime) Girraj Lal Meena told Hindustan Times.
On the other hand, the Gujarat Police were stunned by the arrest of seven bookies in the state as their counterparts in Delhi and Mumbai had kept them in the dark, apparently fearing an information leak. Many in the state police and intelligence circles said they weren't surprised.
"Many police officers in Gujarat are hand in glove with betting syndicate operators," a senior police official who served in the state intelligence bureau said.
Inputs from Jaipur, Ahmedabad