Cronje 'was paid to fix Test against England'

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The Independent Online

The South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje accepted money for his efforts to ensure that a Test match against England was not drawn, sources in Cape Town suggested yesterday. A spokesman for the country's ministry of sport said the allegation would be examined by the newly appointed panel of inquiry.

England won the match last summer after it was reduced to one innings a side following three days of rain. Never before had an innings been forfeited in Test cricket; without it a draw was inevitable. Cronje's denials of any wrongdoing in India have increased concern that the money he accepted - now known to be US$8,200 (£5,250) - was for trying to ensure that the match was not a draw, the odds-on favourite result, thus saving the bookies millions.

The inquiry into match-fixing is now broadening. The Delhi police commissioner Ajay Raj Sharma said yesterday: "This appears to be a very big international racket. It could stretch as far as Australia, Dubai, London, South Africa. So far we have uncovered only the tip of the iceberg."

The commissioner said he was looking for a "Mr Big" whom he is convinced is based in India. "There is one main ringleader who has considerable connections with people outside India. The people we have so far are not the main players." He believes there is a second ringleader in South Africa. "There is somebody in South Africa who's masterminding all this. He's the one we want," he said.

Indian police are now investigating all the matches in the March series involving South Africa. Detectives have been sent to all five host cities, and are reported to be uncovering so much evidence that they have been granted more time for their inquiries. A large quantity of bookies' computers, telephones, tape recorders and television sets have now been seized. Interpol has also been called in. Police are also studying 14 tapes in which deals are discussed. The transcript involving Cronje was a compilation of four of the 14, while others relate to telephone calls made to two men with links to Indian gangsters operating from Dubai. Police have yet to translate a conversation in Afrikaans between Cronje and a South African. They believe this could contain important evidence.

On Tuesday, the International Cricket Council is to meet the Indian Board of Cricket Control in Calcutta to discuss possible action. South African officials may also fly to India this week.

The Indian police have charged Cronje and team mates Nicky Boje, Herschelle Gibbs and Pieter Strydom with "cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy" during a one-day series in India last month. All have denied involvement in match-fixing, but last week Cronje admitted accepting money from a bookmaker for information and forecasting. Cronje has passed the money to his lawyer, who has handed it over to the South African Reserve Bank.

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