Did he fabricate evidence?

2 August 2020 03:51 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Champika Fernando

Four weeks after police “dropped” its investigation of Mahindananda Aluthgamage’s allegation that the 2011 cricket World Cup was fixed, State prosecutors have requested the Sports Ministry for documentary evidence of a complaint the former Sri Lankan Sports Minister claimed to have sent to the International Cricket Council (ICC) in October 2011.

While the police said in a media statement that the probe was closed owing to “lack of evidence”, it only remains suspended, with the Attorney General’s Department yet to give its opinion on the subject. The ICC threw Mahindananda Aluthgamage’s allegation in the bin, saying it had “no reason to doubt the integrity of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Final 2011″.

 

The ICC also said that the recent allegation made does not even warrant the beginning of an investigation. But the Minister has provided a copy of a purported letter sent to the ICC requesting for a formal inquiry back then. The letter dated October 30, 2011, was addressed to Haroon Lorgat, the then Chief Executive of the ICC.

 

Its authenticity is now in question, especially after the ICC (having checked with all senior officials who helped organise the 2011 World Cup) categorically denied receiving a written or oral complaint from the Minister regarding the match.

 

“There is no record of any letter regarding this matter sent by the then Sri Lanka Sports Minister to the ICC and senior ICC staff at the time have confirmed they have no recollection of receiving any such letter which would have led to an investigation,” Alex Marshall, Head of ICC ACU, said in a statement.

 

The ICC’s statement should have shattered Aluthgamage’s claims. The AG’s Department, however, are looking to establish whether the Minister did indeed make a written complaint to the ICC; or whether he manufactured evidence to support his claims in order to avoid a possible jail term for making false allegations under Section 13 of the Prevention of Offences Relating to Sports Act.

 

The letter the Minister said he sent, seen by the Sunday Times, does not even contain a reference number. The AG wants the Ministry of Sports to check all their references to see whether they have got a copy of the original complaint and any other correspondence the Ministry had in this regard with the ICC and vice-versa.

 

If he has lodged an official complaint with the ICC by forwarding a document to investigators, as he claims, there has to be record of it as all official correspondence is preserved at the Ministry.

 

Among other documents the AG’s Department has solicited were the approval given by the Sports Ministry for the 15-man squad originally selected for the tournament; and approval given for the two injury replacements, Chaminda Vaas and Suraj Randiv.

The Minister has said he did not approve the injury replacements. But there was documentary evidence to show that he was not being truthful when he claimed that neither the Sports Ministry, which he headed at the time nor Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) was aware of last-minute additions to the World Cup squad.

The Sunday Times exclusively reported with documentary proof on June 28, 2020, to show the Ministry had sanctioned injury replacements on March 30, 2011, a blow to the credibility of the Minister’s assertions of a fix.

The squad additions were then passed by the Technical Committee of the World Cup organisers on Sri Lanka’s request. Aluthgamage was the Minister in charge. It is unclear how he says his approval was not obtained.

A letter written by then Board Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga addressed to Minister Aluthgamage on March 30, 2011, shows that Selectors took the decision to include the two players “in consultation with the Team Management and Mr Shabir Asgarally on a conference call as he is out of the country.”

The Sports Ministry Secretary granted approval for the inclusion on the same day in order for the two players to travel to India and to join the team for practices.

It is difficult to see how he was ignorant that the Ministry approved the players. As per the Sports Law, no team can represent Sri Lanka at any international event, leave alone travel abroad, without Ministry sanction.

Aluthgamage first dropped the bombshell claim that the 2011 Cricket World Cup Final between India and Sri Lanka had been fixed. In subsequent media appearances, he scaled down on his claims, raising questions surrounding their veracity.

In his initial claim, he stated categorically that the match was fixed, before swiftly shifting to an assertion that he “strongly feels” the match was fixed. In a separate media interview, he claimed that he has evidence to back up his “theory” that the match was fixed.

He also continued to make vague statements that players themselves were not involved in the fixing, but that it was the officials.

Investigations commenced and Aravinda de Silva, Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara were questioned at length by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU).

Mahela Jayawardene was also asked to be present at the SIU but was told to keep off at the last minute before police announced they had stopped the investigation due to insufficient evidence against the players.

The AG’s Department, however, is still examining evidence. Cricketers expressed hope the case will not be swept under the carpet and the final outcome will uphold the rule of law.

 

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