Cricket: Internal probe clears Indian board chief in IPL spot-fixing: source

NEW DELHI (AFP) - A probe ordered by India's cricket chiefs into a betting scandal in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has found no wrongdoing, allowing the return of BCCI president N. Srinivasan, a source told AFP on Monday.

Srinivasan stepped aside temporarily as president of the Board of Control for Cricket (BBCI) in India on June 2 after his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was arrested, and later released on bail, over alleged links to illegal bookmakers.

Meiyappan is a team owner of IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings, a team bought by Srinivasan's India Cements conglomerate when the league was launched in 2008.

The BCCI appointed two retired High Court judges, Jayaram Chouta and R. Balasubramanian, to conduct an internal probe into the involvement of its members or of IPL owners.

Police have also questioned Raj Kundra, husband of Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty and co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals franchise, which had three players arrested for alleged spot-fixing.

The probe report, which was submitted to BCCI's acting chief Jagmohan Dalmiya on Sunday, cleared Srinivasan's India Cements, Rajasthan Royals, Meiyappan and Kundra of spot-fixing allegations, the source said.

"There is nothing in the report to implicate these people," a highly-placed source told AFP on condition of anonymity. "I don't think we can, or have the right, to stop Srinivasan from coming back as president now."

The report will be placed before the IPL's governing council in New Delhi on Friday for further action and will be released publicly later on, Dalmiya said on Sunday.

The BCCI probe is separate from investigations being carried out by the Delhi and Mumbai police into the IPL scandal, with charges expected to be filed shortly.

The internal probe, which Dalmiya had said last month would aim to clean up Indian cricket and fix responsibility for any wrongdoing, was ridiculed in the media and elsewhere.

"The BCCI... has turned an important step of 'Operation Clean-Up' into something resembling 'Operation Cover-Up'," wrote commentator Sharda Ugra on the Cricinfo website. "The arrest of a top-ranking team official and the questioning of a team owner about his association with bookmakers are not routine for any self-respecting sporting league."

Sports lawyer Rahul Mehra said Srinivasan's possible return following the probe report would be a "slap on the face of every cricket-loving Indian and another reminder of the blatant disregard of the BCCI for the rule of law".

Two Royals players - World Cup-winning fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and Ankeet Chavan - are out on bail for their alleged involvement in spot-fixing.

A third player, Ajit Chandila, reported to be the main conduit between the bookmakers and cricketers, is still behind bars.

The probe panel was hampered by the reluctance of Mumbai police to share information with them until charges were framed, the source said.

"We are unsure how much evidence the police has," he said. "Would a court have granted bail to the players if there was a serious case against them?"

The scandal in the money-spinning IPL, a Twenty20 tournament which sees top international stars play alongside domestic players, has shaken fans' faith in India's most popular sport.

Police allege the players deliberately bowled badly in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars after striking deals with bookmakers.

The BCCI has already reinstated Congress politician and federal minister, Rajiv Shukla, as IPL chairman since Dalmiya said he had not accepted his resignation.

Spot-fixing involves the fixing by bookmakers of parts of a game, such as the number of no-balls or the run-rate.

Match-fixing is when the outcome of the game is predetermined.

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