Exclusive: Al Jazeera exposes players cashing in on match-fixing

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Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has exposed three former international cricket players who were prepared to take money to fix matches.

The three players agreed to play in a tournament being set up solely for the purpose of match-fixing.

The players were secretly filmed by undercover reporters, posing as wealthy potential sponsors, during meetings in Qatar and Sri Lanka.

One of the players is Hasan Raza, the former Pakistan star. He made his debut for his country at the age of just 14 and is the youngest player ever to play for Pakistan’s national team.

The two other former internationals who said they would carry out fixes in the fake tournament were Jeevantha Kulatunga, a former coach of the Sri Lanka women’s team, and Dilhara Lokuhettige, who has played 11 times for his country.

Al Jazeera’s documentary, Cricket’s Match-Fixers, reveals that the tournament was planned by Robin Morris, a match-fixer from Mumbai and Gaurav Rajkumar, his business partner from Dubai. 

During a meeting at a hotel in Doha, an undercover reporter asks Raza, who is sitting on a sofa next to Morris: “Hasan, would you play?”

Raza, who played Twenty20 cricket with Morris for Mumbai Champs, replies: “Yeah, yeah.”

Morris agreed to introduce us to the two former Sri Lanka internationals. We met at a hotel in Colombo where Kulatunga and Lokuhettige said they would do Morris’ fixing work in the proposed tournament in Dubai.

Asked if they would both follow Morris’ “script” Kulatunga replies: “Yeah, of course. 100 percent. That’s the plan.

“We will execute the plan. That’s not a problem … We can do it now without hesitation.

“This is a professional matter so it is not a big thing. Playing cricket for us is like brushing our teeth in the morning.

“But playing according to your plan is the easiest thing because there is no pressure for us.”

Morris says: “To underperform is easier than overperform.”

Kulatunga adds: “Like Robin said, Robin will tell us what to do. We’ll do that, easy.”

Plotting match-fixing

Earlier, at a meeting in Mumbai, Morris and Rajkumar explained their plans for the tournament and showed the undercover reporters a detailed business plan.

Rajkumar, was born and raised in Dubai. He says he played a lot of cricket there and knows many people in the cricket councils. “I have very good relationships.”

“I know how every tournament works, what are the expenses, from A to Z. Everything,” Rajkumar says in the Al Jazeera documentary. 

The plan is to set up a live-televised Twenty20 cricket tournament, the fast-paced form of cricket that has mushroomed into a multi-billion dollar industry in recent years.

Every step will be taken to ensure the tournament appears legitimate.

Rajkumar says: “I have already been to the head of Dubai Cricket Council and he’s very pro to this idea, okay?”

“He said when it’s live televised it should to be approved from the ICC.

“The whole thing will be completely compliant to ICC’s mandate and everything.”

There will be four teams from different parts of the United Arab Emirates, each with a mixture of former internationals from overseas and Emirates-based players, Rajkumar says.

The captains will be from overseas and only a handful of players on each team will know the 10-day tournament is a front for match-fixing. 

“Only the ones we trust otherwise we will not ever open our gob,” says Rajkumar. “If we do that one person will tell somebody else and the whole thing gets leaked.”

Targeting players

The match-fixers say they have targeted players who are at the beginning or near the end of their career. “They are on the fringes,” Rajkumar says, pointing at images of players on his laptop.

“This guy’s an international. He has played Test cricket – 30 to 40 games. Youngsters will come too. The ones who are just getting into the side. We will work hand in glove with them.”

Morris says every player will be paid £1,000 [$1,330] per match but the ones doing his and Rajkumar’s fixing work will receive £35,000-£40,000 [$46,600-$53,300] per match. 

Morris says: “And that money is like f*****g nothing. They are going to work for us. They can make 10 times that.”

The reporter says: “So, they would be like puppets?”

Rajkumar replies: “Exactly. Yes, you’ve just got it. Total control.”

Rajkumar says at the meeting in Colombo: “We don’t care about the entertainment as long as we are making the money.”

Morris offered this reporter a deal: he said he would give me information about the fixes in the tournament in return for 30 percent of my winnings from betting. “The winnings you give me 30 percent … 70-30.”

Chris Eaton, a sports integrity expert and former Interpol sports corruption investigator, said: “The claim by Morris that he can set up an entire tournament for the purpose of corruption – of course it rings true to me. I’ve seen it in football. 

“I’ve seen entire tournaments being manipulated for the purpose of betting corruption and betting fraud.”

Morris and Rajkumar denied the allegations and said Al Jazeera had invited them to audition for, and act in, a commercial movie “for public entertainment only”.

Raza and Lokuhettige did not respond to requests for comment.

Kulatunga denies any involvement in match-fixing. He says Al Jazeera’s allegations are “false” and had been “deliberately used to tarnish my image and reputation as a cricketer and coach”.

Cricket’s Match-Fixers is available to watch online and can be viewed on Al Jazeera at the following times:

Monday, May 28 – 12:00 GMT

Tuesday, May 29 – 01:00 GMT

Wednesday, May 30 – 06:00 GMT

Thursday, May 31 – 12:00 GMT

Friday, June 1 – 20:00 GMT

Saturday, June 2 – 01:00 GMT

Sunday, June 3 – 06:00 GMT

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