NEW DELHI, November 17- An investigation into corruption and betting scandals has exonerated world cricket chief Narayanaswami Srinivasan, clearing the way for his comeback as head of the sport in India, a court heard Monday.
Srinivasan, considered the most powerful man in world cricket, was among top officials probed by a Supreme Court-appointed panel looking into scandals last year in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL).
“This individual was not involved in match-fixing activities. This individual was not involved in scuttling investigations into match-fixing,” the panel’s report said.
The panel, headed by former judge Mukul Mudgal, submitted its findings in a sealed envelope to the top court earlier this month but they were only released on Monday.
The report was expected to pave the way for Srinivasan to resume his position as head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which was scheduled to hold elections later this month.
The court had barred Srinivasan from carrying out his duties as BCCI president until it delivered its final verdict, although it did not stop him from heading the International Cricket Council. He was appointed chairman of the world body in June.
The panel honed in on Srinivasan and three others including his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, who was the team principal of the Chennai Super Kings franchise.
Meiyappan was cleared of match-fixing but the panel was “unanimous” that he had been involved in betting activities during the glitzy, scandal-tainted Twenty20 tournament.
– Mired in controversy –
Gambling is mostly illegal in India, but betting on cricket matches thrives through networks of underground bookies.
The Super Kings are owned by India Cements, whose managing director is Srinivasan, while the team is captained by India skipper Mahendra Dhoni.
The sixth IPL season last year was mired in controversy after police launched legal proceedings against several IPL officials and cricketers, including former Test fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, for illegal betting and spot-fixing.
The panel also found that IPL chief executive Sundar Raman knew a bookmaker’s associate and “contacted him eight times in one season”, according to its report released on Monday.
“Sundar Raman admitted knowing the contact of the bookie, however (he) claimed to be unaware of his connection with betting activities,” the report said.
There was also “material on record to indicate” that Raj Kundra, owner of the Rajasthan Royals IPL franchise, placed bets.
“The individual was in touch with bookies and he had violated the anti-corruption code,” the report concluded.
Aditya Verma of the Cricket Association of Bihar, which had petitioned the court for Srinivasan’s removal, maintained despite Monday’s report that he should be sacked and said the affair had tarnished the organisation.
The IPL, which began in 2008, features the world’s top players signed up for huge fees by companies and high-profile individuals in a mix of sport and entertainment.
With its massive TV audiences, India generates almost 70 percent of the game’s revenues and several Test nations are heavily dependent on its largesse.
International news organisations including Agence France-Presse have suspended on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI since 2012 after the board imposed restrictions on picture agencies/