BCCI suspends Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra

Stung by the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandals, the BCCI today cracked the whip by suspending Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra on charges of gambling and unveiled a 12-point 'Operation Clean-up' in a bid to restore the Twenty20 League's credibility. 

The BCCI's all-powerful working committee, which gathered for an emergency meeting here, discussed the raging scandal and took the decision to suspend Kundra pending an inquiry.

Kundra thus becomes the second team owner, after N Srinivasan's son-in-law and Chennai Super Kings Team Principal Gurunath Meiyappan, to be suspended from cricketing activities.

The Board also decided that the two-member panel -- comprising Justice T Jayaram Chouta and Justice R Balasubramanian -- which is currently investigating Meiyappan and CSK would also probe Kundra and the Rajasthan Royals.

Raj Kundra

Raj Kundra. Pic/ Nimesh Dave

"The Working Committee today decided to suspend Raj Kundra on allegations of gambling on IPL VI matches till the pendency of inquiry," BCCI's interim chief Jagmohan Dalmiya told reporters after the meeting. 

"Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar had grilled Kundra for 11 hours and he had admitted to gambling in IPL matches and also IPL CEO Sundar Raman has got a complaint from a closed source. I will not reveal the name of the source," he said. 

"Obviously, Rajasthan Royals' role in the whole issue is being looked into but without getting hold of the facts, we don't want to frighten anybody," he added when asked why Rajasthan Royals have not been suspended from the IPL. 

Dalmiya was forced to call the meeting after the Delhi Police claimed that Kundra, a minority (11.7 per cent) shareholder in Rajasthan Royals, had confessed to betting during the IPL matches. 

If the charges are proved, Rajasthan Royals face the prospect of being terminated from the IPL and to avoid this fate, the franchise has already distanced itself from Kundra. 

Among other decisions, the working committee ratified the name of Sanjay Patel as the Secretary and also elected Mumbai Cricket Association President Ravi Sawant as the Treasurer, a post left vacant by Ajay Shirke in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal. 

BCCI's Anti Corruption and Security Unit chief Ravi Sawani also tabled his report on the three tainted cricketers -- Test pacer S Sreesanth, Ashok Chandila and Ankeet Chavan -- who have been arrested for alleged spot-fixing. 

The working committee decided to forward the report to the Board's disciplinary committee. 

The Committee has decided to issue chargesheets to the concerned players. 

The panel will be without N Srinivasan, who stepped aside as Board President after Meiyappan's arrest.

Arun Jaitley and Niranjan Shah are the other two members of the panel.

"The sealed report of Sawani was not opened at the meeting as the committee found it prudent to hand it over to the disciplinary committee," a BCCI official said. 

"As is the process of natural justice, the players, once they are out of judicial custody, will be summoned for presenting their side of the story before the final verdict is pronounced," he added. 

The Board members discussed at length on how to restore the credibility of the game and drew up an action plan called 'Operation Clean-up' which envisages a series of measures to curb corruption in the IPL. 

The Board has decided to bar cheerleaders and after-match parties for players and support staff besides ensuring a strict code of conduct to be followed by players and support staff, owners. 

It has also decided to restrict the movement in players's dug-out and dressing room. 

"The owners from now on will be restricted from entering dug-out and dressing room during matches. All players ands staff of franchises need to furnish telephone numbers with the BCCI before the tournament," Dalmiya said. 

In an attempt to distance itself from Kundra, the Rajasthan Royals management had last week said that he had no involvement in running of the franchise and would be suspended if found guilty.

"As a franchise, we have always been clear that the same rules apply to players, management or owners. As such, our actions will be consistent as in the case of the spot fixing allegations with respect to our players. Mr. Raj Kundra is a minority (11.7 percent) shareholder, and he has no involvement in the running of the franchise. We believe that Mr. Raj Kundra is a law abiding citizen and would not act contrary to law. If however, he is proven guilty, or has breached any regulations, he will be suspended, and he will also forfeit his shares. This is a strict governance procedure agreed to by all Rajasthan Royals shareholders, and it is consistent with our zero tolerance approach," said Rajasthan Royals Chairman Ranjit Barthakur and CEO Raghu Iyer in a statement.

The Jaipur-based franchise in its statement said that Rajasthan Royals has been assisting the police in the investigations and cooperating with the authorities to ensure a thorough inquiry.

"In the last few days, various members of the RR management have been assisting the Delhi Police in their investigation for a better appreciation and understanding of the matter. As we have stated before, we are cooperating with the authorities to ensure a thorough inquiry and will continue to share any such information that they may seek from us in the future. We are working hard as co-complainants to ensure that all information is made available to the authorities," the Rajasthan Royals statement said.

Delhi Police had earlier last week claimed that Raj Kundra has admitted to betting in the IPL through bookie Umesh Goenka.

"We got to know that he (Raj Kundra) used to place bets and that is why he was called for questioning. Umesh Goenka was the bookie through whom he placed the bets. He has lost a lot of money on the bets that he made," said Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar.

Delhi Police had also asked Kundra to surrender his passport and not to leave the country pending further inquiry in the IPL spot-fixing scandal.

Kundra, an NRI businessman based in the United Kingdom, was questioned for almost twelve hours by the police earlier on Wednesday.

Kundra was quizzed mainly on three aspects. He was asked about the capacity in which Goenka interacted with the management on team strategy, asking players other questions, and about the "open parties his team players attended" with the bookies at the team hotel.

Delhi Police also asked Kundra about his team''s partnership and investment pattern since he only owns 11.7 percent in the team.

Information on Kundra came to light during the interrogation of his friend Umesh Goenka, a businessman who reportedly used to ask Rajasthan Royal players about strategy, team composition, pitch situation and even things like the possible winner of a match.

Kundra is Goenka''s partner in his steel ingots manufacturing business called Ashwini Steel Private Limited in Ahmedabad.

The Rajasthan Royals have four owners, including Kundra''s wife and Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty.

If required, the Special Cell of Delhi Police may summon Shilpa Shetty and other team owners for questioning in the days to come. 

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