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Even as police cracked down on bookies across the country betting on IPL matches last month, huge bets continued to be placed on the play-offs and final of the T20 tournament, with major Indian and Dubai-based bookies raking in earnings through the popular British betting web site betfair.com.
The Maharashtra government believes the online gambling site encourages massive hawala transactions and has repeatedly requested the Centre to block it on all Indian internet service providers. In fact, the Bombay High Court had in March 2010 ordered that action be taken against betfair within three months.
However, the website remains accessible and was used by bookies for a major chunk of their betting on IPL matches.
Sources in betting circles alleged that eight prominent bookies – Ashwin Agarwal alias Tinku Delhi who has been arrested by the Delhi Police; Sunil Abhichandi alias Sunil Dubai, Mukesh Kumar Gupta alias MK alias Mukesh Delhi who was involved in the 1999-2000 India-South Africa match-fixing scandal; Lalchand Dubai, who is the brother-in-law of top bookie Shobhan Mehta; Kiran Ahmedabad; Chhota Nagpur; Murad Hyderabad and Sikandar Jaipur – operate master accounts on betfair.com and have created sub-accounts and provided their passwords to sub-dealers in India and Pakistan.
These sub-dealers in turn provide access on the web site to bookies and punters. Accounts are then settled through hawala channels. After the Mumbai Police began cracking down on gambling in 2009, it found that bookies had shifted their operations online. Investigators learnt that prominent bookies had acquired accounts on betfair.com.
The police took up the matter with the state government. Again in May 2012, when the Mumbai Police busted a major cricket betting den in suburban Kandivali, they found that bookies were placing bets on the web site. On June 24, 2009, R N Deshmukh, joint secretary in the Maharashtra home department, wrote to the director, Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), Delhi, requesting the website be blocked. In the letter, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, the home department official wrote: "I am directed to inform you that transmission of text, image from below mentioned link (www.betfair.com) has the potential of instigating people of India for gambling and betting which may cause hawala transactions of crores of rupees to foreign countries. I am further directed to request you that transmission of above web site should be blocked from all ISPs based in India immediately. The letter is issued with the approval of additional chief secretary (home), government of Maharashtra."