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The Rediff Special/Vijay Singh in Mumbai
June 03, 2005
Bookie Shoban Mehta, who was arrested on May 17, was granted bail by a Mumbai court on May 27.
Not much is known about Shobhan, who is alleged to have fixed many international cricket matches.
Is he the biggest bookie in the country, as the police claim? rediff.com finds out.
Who is Shoban Mehta?
Shoban Mehta aka Shoban Kalachowki (because he lives in the Kalachowki area, northcentral Mumbai) is well-known in bookie circles. He also claims to be a diamond merchant.
A native of Palanpur, Gujarat, he was born in 1962.
Shobhan -- who dropped out of college in 1982 while in first year B Com -- used to run errands for one of his diamond merchant relatives.
A Central Bureau of Investigation report claims Shobhan started out as a punter (someone who placed bets on things) in 1987 and gradually became a bookie, later reportedly roping in his younger brother into the business to help him maintain his books.
Along the years, he is alleged to have established a well-connected network spreading across Mumbai, Jaipur, Chennai, Calcutta and Delhi.
What are the allegations against Shobhan?
That he operated a huge betting network, allegedly fixing international cricket matches.
That he also dealt with foreign punters.
He has been charged under Sections 109 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code; the Indian Telegraph Act and Sections 4 and 5 of the Gambling Act.
How was he exposed?
The Mumbai police recently busted an illegal telephone exchange in south Mumbai, which was operated by a man named Ramesh Vyas. Detectives seized a conferencing machine, power supply unit, phone, Internet terminal box, net-to-phone devices and account books. Shoban is alleged to have been close to Vyas, using the illegal telephone exchange to run his betting network.
Will he be booked under the dreaded Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act?
Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil says, 'After investigation, the police will decide about applying MCOCA. Mehta has no previous criminal record. No case has been registered against him anywhere.'
He was, however, questioned by investigating agencies several times. It was difficult for the police to book him as no evidence was available against him. He evaded arrest for a long time, but this time around, the police is reported to have got its hands on solid evidence and arrested him.
Was he present at Sachin Tendulkar's wedding?
Reports claimed he attended Sachin's wedding. The CBI, which investigated match fixing in cricket, questioned both Sachin and Shoban.
Shoban denied attending the wedding; Sachin told the CBI he had never met Shoban.
What are the aspects to look out for during the investigation?
Beside looking for information on other bookies, the police are investigating whether any cricketer was in Shobhan's loop. Any links with the underworld are also being probed.
Many calls were made to Dubai and Pakistan from Vyas' illegal exchange.
Shobhan is reported to have visited various countries -- the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Hong Kong and Thailand. The police will probe his connections in these countries.
Why was he provided police security?
Shobhan received threats first from (now dead) gangster Amar Naik's gang in 1992 and then later from fugitive gangster Chhota Rajan's gang. In 1999, fugitive gangster Chhota Shakeel placed a bet on the India-New Zealand Test at Ahmedabad, and lost heavily. He learnt that Shobhan allegedly fixed the match and went after him. Following this, Shobhan was provided police protection, which was later withdrawn.
What is the latest on matchfixing?
Bookies still accept bets on Test matches (on its result), One Day Internationals (results, team and individual performances), on sessions (called session betting, bets are placed in three stages -- on team performances within the first 15 overs, 16th to 35th overs and from 35th to 50th overs).
Photograph: Arun Patil | Headline image: Uday Kuckian