A member of Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman Rajeev Shukla’s personal staff was on Wednesday suspended pending an inquiry after a sting operation alleged that he sought bribes to facilitate selection of players in the Uttar Pradesh team.
A Hindi news channel telecast an alleged phone conversation between Akram Saifi, an executive assistant of Shukla, and cricketer Rahul Sharma in which Saifi is heard seeking favours in “cash and kind” to ensure Sharma’s selection in the state team.
Shukla is currently the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA) Secretary.
“Pursuant to the tele-conference between Chairman of COA (Committee of Administrators) and (BCCI) Acting President (C K Khanna) and pending the appointment of a Commissioner under Rule 32 of the rules and regulations of BCCI, we are seeking an explanation from Mr. Akram Saifi regarding the allegations made against him,” an internal communication of the BCCI, which is in possession of the PTI, stated.
“Mr. Saifi’s reply shall be examined by the Commissioner once appointed,” it added.
As per Rule 32 of the BCCI regulations, any complaints of misconduct are to be decided by a commissioner, who will be appointed by the Board President C K Khanna in the next 48 hours.
The commissioner is mandated to submit his findings within 15 days, which will then be passed on to the BCCI’s disciplinary committee. A reliable source in the Board said Saifi has been suspended till the completion of this procedure.
The Board’s Anti-Corruption Unit chief Ajit Singh said audio tapes are being sought from the channel in question.
“We have taken note of the sting and will examine the entire matter. Until we speak to the people involved, it is difficult to say anything as of now,” he said.
The player in question, Rahul Sharma, has never represented India and has not been a part of the state team either.
He has alleged that Saifi sought bribes and other favours to ensure his selection in the team. He has also accused Saifi of issuing fake age certificates. Saifi has denied all the charges.
“We are open to any inquiry. We follow a very transparent selection process at the UPCA. I can’t comment on the conversation between the two as it is their personal matter,” said UPCA’s Joint Secretary Yudhveer Singh, dismissing the charges of corruption in selection.
“I have checked about Rahul Sharma and found out that he has never even been a part of the state probables. He has no credibility,” he added.
Shukla has not yet reacted to the allegations.
Earlier, the BCCI had sought to steer clear of any association with Saifi even though it admitted that his salary was being paid from the Board’s funds.
“The BCCI only allocates funds for its office-bearers’ personal staff. They are free to appoint people of their choice as executive assistants and their salaries come from this fund. However, the Board has got nothing to do with these staffers,” a top Board official said.
Former India player and UP captain Mohammad Kaif said the allegations have stunned him and demanded a probe into the matter.
“Shocked to hear about the extent of corruption in UP Cricket. Young talent being curbed by corrupt agents asking for favours. Hope @ShuklaRajiv ji ensures a fair investigation and justice to the young talent & helps restore UP Cricket. I stand by all those who have been exploited,” he tweeted.
Kaif, who recently retired from all cricket, had captained UP to its maiden Ranji Trophy title in the 2005-06 season.