Batting For Money

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At a time when the state machinery has been busy forwarding promotion of sports as a factor to achieve stability in Kashmir, the J&K Cricket Association shocks cricket lovers in the state by revealing that money received from BCCI for infrastructure development has been siphoned off in a multi-crore scam. A Kashmir Life report.

Officials of the premier cricket management body of the state, the J&K Cricket Association accepted Friday that more than rupees 24 crore have been swindled off from its chest by the same officials entrusted to use the money sent by the BCCI for development of infrastructure in the state.

The Association’s general secretary, Ehsan Mirza, it has been conceded by its chairman, was operating bogus accounts when he was the treasurer and used bearer cheques in contravention of the established rules to siphon off money into his personal kitty.

Mirza has already resigned in the wake of the expose and according to insiders of the association he has accepted the allegations while promising to repay the money he fraudulently siphoned out. The Association’s chief administrative officer Saleem Khan has been asked to resign.

The Association is headed by the former chief minister and union minister for renewable energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah. So far, the sports body has restrained from registering a case against Mirza and Khan with the police amid demands from the opposition PDP that Abdullah’s role also be investigated.

Sources inside the Association say that BBCI has been requested to send details of funds sent for the J&K body since Mirza functioned as the treasurer so that the actual amount embezzled by him could be established. “He (Mirza) has accepted having swindled more than 24 crore rupees, but it could be more than that and we would know as soon as BBCI sends the requested information,” said a member privy to the entire internal probe.

The two accused officials, carpet dealer Mirza and Khan had cleverly used shadow accounts in two different branches of J&K Bank to keep the illegal withdrawals hidden from the audits. Two FDRs worth Rs 1.15 crore each in the bank were also not revealed in the audit reports.

There are clear indications about where the money has gone. Part of it was funding the high-end business of another carpet dealer who has a joint account in the same bank with the accused,” said a source, adding that most of the devolutions from the BBCI would also land in the ‘fake’ accounts.

Dr Farooq Abdullah on being informed of the scam rushed the President of the Association and his old friend, the former advocate general Aslam Goni to Srinagar. Goni admitted that Mirza, who was the Association Treasurer in 2009, has taken responsibility of the “shortfall” and would pay the money back.

The scam in the cricket body rocked assembly on Thursday when the PDP sought an explanation from the Sports Minister R S Chib who said that the Association does not work under him and he would not make any statement.  Directing its ire towards “a tall leader” (read Dr Abdullah) and his “cronies” for the scam the PDP demanded that a case be registered in the matter. The Speaker, Mohammad Akbar Lone then reportedly said nothing could go on record “against the person you are talking about”.

Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP said that two officials of the Association were shunted out to provide cover up for others. “If a case can be registered against Suresh Kalmadi why can’t it be done with Farooq?”

In the past the Association has remained in the news for wrong reasons when a court passed strictures against its functioning and conduct of business by the officers of the JKCA from making transactions from the Association account.

A petition accused the Association office bearers in 2010 that the sports body was being managed “in serious and deliberate breach of rules” by the “total exclusion of the decision making authority.”

As late as January this year another court directed the Association not to withdraw funds using bearer cheques.

The whiff of the scam had been making quiet rounds among young cricketers in the valley and lower officials of the Association, but it took a journalist Bilal Bhat of a national TV news channel to finally blow the cover.  

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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