India's PM will fight cricket gambling

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India's prime minister vowed to fight betting in cricket today, and investigators said they had new evidence in the sport's biggest scandal allegedly involving South African icon Hansie Cronje.

"The government has no proposal to legalise betting. We are all for eliminating this menace," Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was quoted as saying by Press Trust of India at a meeting of his Bharatiya Janata Party. Betting is illegal in India.

Vajpayee was responding to reported comments by Sports Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa that the government might lift that ban.

Based on taped phone conversations, New Delhi police charged former South African captain Cronje and his teammates Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje and Pieter Strydom with fraud, conspiracy and deceiving and defrauding spectators.

Cronje last week admitted receiving about 10,000 dlrs and said he had "forecast" some matches, but denied fixing them.

On Sunday, officials of India's Enforcement Directorate, which probes financial offenses, produced in court a diary which they said had crucial details on bookmakers and illegal money transactions.

The diary was found in the home of Rajesh Kalra, a bookmaker now under arrest, the officials said. Kalra said in court the diary did not belong to him.

"I am innocent. I am not a bookie. They are mentally torturing me and have forced me to sign certain documents," Kalra was quoted as saying by Press Trust.

The scandal has shaken up India's cricket establishment, where rumours of matchfixing have floated for years. In 1997, India's cricket board formed a panel to investigate the allegations, but its report, submitted to the government a year later, has not been made public yet.

Sports Minister Dhindsa said today that the report might be made public ahead of a meeting of former captains and other cricket officials he has called on April 27, United News of India reported.

"The report should be made public for the people to know what has been happening," Dhindsa was quoted as saying.