Top lo­cal crick­eters 'honey trapped' and 'black­mailed' into match fix­ing

Fix­ing ring in­cludes a lo­cal woman with links to a pro­lific In­dian fixer

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - SPORTS - By Champika Fer­nando

Sri Lanka's top crick­eters are al­legedly be­ing honey trapped and bl a ck m a i l e d into match- fix­ing, the Sun­day Times re­li­ably learns, amidst un­prece­dented In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil in­ter­ven­tion to, at the very least, re­duce cor­rup­tion in the sport here.

The ICC is now in­ves­ti­gat­ing what they term "se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion" in Sri Lanka. Three play­ers have been charged, in­clud­ing for­mer Chair­man of Se­lec­tors and top crick­eter Sanath Jaya­suriya. Jaya­suriya was not charged for match- fix­ing but for con­ceal­ing in­for­ma­tion-- an of­fence un­der ICC’s anti-cor­rup­tion code.

Nuwan Zoysa- a for­mer coach at­tached to SLC and a for­mer in­ter­na­tional crick­eter Dil­hara Lokuhet­tige were ac­cused of di­rectly so­lic­it­ing, in­duc­ing, en­tic­ing or en­cour­ag­ing a player" to fix or in­flu­ence the progress of a match and fail­ing to dis­close ap­proaches to "en­gage in cor­rupt con­duct".

For the first time in the or­gan­i­sa­tion's 109- year his­tory, the ICC this week an­nounced a 15-day amnesty for crick­eters and of­fi­cials, start­ing on Jan­uary 16. They are urged to di­vulge any ap­proaches they may have re­ceived from fix­ers on the prom­ise that they will not be pe­nalised.

Speak­ing to the crick­eters and of­fi­cials in Colombo ICC’s Anti-Cor­rup­tion Unit’s Co­or­di­na­tor of In­ves­ti­ga­tions, Steve Richardson urged play­ers to come clean by co­op­er­at­ing with the in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

‘ Let me make this clear, this is not amnesty for cor­rupt peo­ple, peo­ple who have fixed matches,” Richardson told the play­ers and of­fi­cials at the Min­istry of Sports. “This is for peo­ple who have been ap­proached but turned it down and not re­ported it," he con­tin­ued.

“This amnesty will give you a chance to come for­ward and tell us. So who will you be re­port­ing to? At the mo­ment, there’s no anti- cor­rup­tion unit in Sri Lanka. I am the anti-cor­rup­tion of­fi­cer in Sri Lanka Cricket. There­fore, you will be re­port­ing to me. As the ICC anti-cor­rup­tion of­fi­cer, I will be the one who will come and speak to you. You can have con­fi­dence that what you say to me will be dealt with in con­fi­dence. I have had many con­fi­den­tial dis­cus­sions with peo­ple in this room, but noth­ing was re­ported in the me­dia. Noth­ing at all."

It remains to be seen whether vic­tims of such a cor­rupt sys­tem are free to dis­close this in­for­ma­tion for fear of ret­ri­bu­tion, given how deep the con­nec­tions fix­ers have to both crim­i­nals and peo­ple in power.

There is ev­i­dence, how­ever, that some crick­eters un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion are caught in a honey-trap, an ap­proach widely used by or­gan­ised crim­i­nals around the world. Oth­ers, mostly young play­ers com­ing into the na­tional side, are asked to fix matches by those that wield au­thor­ity to earn a place in the team.

Last July, Sri Lanka opener Danushka Gu­nathi­laka was ques­tioned by Po­lice af­ter a Nor­we­gian woman was al­legedly raped in a ho­tel room while he was present. Po­lice later con­firmed that Gu­nathi­laka him­self was not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion even though he was linked to the al­leged as­sault in the team ho­tel. Sri Lanka Cricket later slapped him with a six match ban for breach­ing the “Player Code of Con­duct and Con­trac­tual Obli­ga­tion’ twice within a 12-month pe­riod.

In ad­di­tion to the three charged at present, at least few other crick­eters play­ing at var­i­ous lev­els and who are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for cor­rup­tion al­legedly have links with a woman in Colombo. The Sun­day Times learns she en­ticed the play­ers, later in­tro­duc­ing them to a pro­lific match-fixer in In­dia to seal the deal. In­for­ma­tion about these per­sons, in­clud­ing their pho­to­graphs, have been dis­closed to play­ers to ed­u­cate them about their ac­tiv­i­ties.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions started in 2017 af­ter Sri Lanka lost an ODI se­ries to Zim­babwe at home ( 2- 3). The man­ner in which the home team got de­feated was pub­licly ques­tioned by many for­mer play­ers. As a means of tack­ling the menace, match- fix­ing laws are be­ing for­mu­lated en­tail­ing tow­er­ing fines and prison sen­tences for those found guilty. They are ex­pected to be passed soon but le­gal sources in­sisted that Sri Lanka must change the ar­chaic Sports Law and Sri Lanka Cricket's (SLC) con­sti­tu­tion as a mat­ter of pri­or­ity to stop cor­rup­tion eat­ing away at the sport's ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Harin Fer­nando, the new Sports Min­is­ter, made it his pri­or­ity but did not have the bless­ings of the ICC to get it post­poned- within which pe­riod he had hoped to change the SLC con­sti­tu­tion--be­fore con­duct­ing the cricket elec­tion. ICC had ear­lier granted two ex­ten­sion to Faiszer Musthapha, the for­mer Sports Min­is­ter.

This sab­o­taged Min­is­ter Fer­nando's plan to in­tro­duce a con­sti­tu­tion tai­lored to stop vote-buy­ing and ma­nip­u­la­tion, thereby-- hope­fully-- pre­vent­ing peo­ple with vested in­ter­ests as­sum­ing power over cricket ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Al­most the whole of Sri Lanka's cricket cir­cle was given a lec­ture on Anti Cor­rup­tion by the ICC rep­re­sen­ta­tive

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