MUMBAI: Ever since the morning of July 4, when the story first broke on the ingenuity of a totally fictitious Sri Lankan T20 league being “played” on the outskirts of Chandigarh, probing authorities that include the International Cricket Council‘s (ICC) ACSU, BCCI and Sri Lanka Cricket anti-corruption units and police from Mumbai and Chandigarh have become part of an inquiry to look into the most bizarre of cricketing scams in recent times.
In the transpiring week, as details emerged on the drama, arrests made in Chandigarh and comments coming from those probing the incident, TOI went looking for details that haven’t become public yet and is in possession of it.
Below is a chronological order in which the events took place, starting June 25 when a fabricated email popped up in the inbox of FanCode’s email, the police complaints that were filed on July 6 and where matters stand as of today. An exclusive investigative report on what transpired.
TOI spoke with investigating authorities, police sources, FanCode officials and other unnamed sources to get into the details.
* On 25th June 2020, late in the evening an individual named Sandun Karunaratne posing as UVA League representative reached out to FanCode’s content team with the presentation of the league and asked for a discussion on helping promote it through distribution.
* Karunaratne said he represents the UVA Premier League and shared details of the league with FanCode on email, including details of their website – uvapremierleague.com (the website is now shut). Karunaratne reached out using the email ID [email protected]
* Karunaratne said they had figured how to reach FanCode’s content team through details and email addresses available on Linkedin (an employment-oriented online service). After the email came, FanCode’s content team replied to it, as they do with any business-related email.
* Once emails were exchanged and a contact established, Karunaratne communicated on Whatsapp from a Sri Lankan number (+94 76*****28) to further discussions on the league. A second line of communication was opened on Whatsapp from another Sri Lankan number (+94 78*****10), belonging to a certain Vaas (first name unconfirmed), who was brought on board by Karunaratne to work on operational procedures and technical assistance to stream the league.
* On 26th June 2020, the FanCode team asked Karunaratne for official sanction letters from Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), which is a specific requirement for the event to go on the platform. The UVA league representative shared their company details along with details of another event organised earlier to support their claim and business approach – with details mentioned on their website uvapremierleague.com. The website was later taken off.
* On 27th June 2020, Karunaratne shared an approval letter from UVA Province Cricket Association (UPCA). The UPCA is the local association that was supposed to host the league, according to Karunaratne in his exchanges with FanCode. The email also mentioned that the UVA Premier League is the domestic event of UPCA.
* FanCode has said that the email of approval from UPCA, sent by Karunaratne, is scanned on the UPCA letterhead, possibly to authenticate the source. However, given the turn of events, FanCode has admitted there’s no way to ascertain authenticity, especially after what happened.
* FanCode has said it asked for a letter stating that UPCA is an affiliated body of SLC. Karunaratne told FanCode via another email that the offices of the SLC were closed for the weekend (June 27 was a Saturday) and as an alternative provided an email confirmation that was sent by Sri Lankan cricket officials to UPCA (Karunaratne forwarded to FanCode).
* The forwarded email (sent from [email protected]) said the SLC was confirming the event, after which Karunaratne began discussing player details and streaming information, and provided the same to the FanCode team via email.
* The email — purported to be sent by SLC COO Jerome Jayaratne — stating the SLC approval is as follows:
Marked to: [email protected] — with a cc marked to [email protected] – it says…
Dear Mr Zoysa,
As discussed with Mr Mohan D’Silva (secretary general SLC), we give full authority to UPCA to conduct the UVA Premier League 2020).
Please note SLC will not be providing any financial help to UPCA. Moreover, UPCA is requested to follow the norms of SLC and new post-Covid19 regulations.
Best of luck for future endeavours. Thank you.
The letter is signed by Jerome Jayaratne, the Chief Operating Officer at Sri Lanka Cricket.
* Mohan D’Silva and Jerome Jayaratne are actual officials in the Sri Lankan cricket board and there’s heavy suspicion right now that the email sent by Jerome Jayaratne had its IP address masked, and is being investigated right now.
* On 28th June 2020, around evening time, Karunaratne and Vaas mentioned that they are ready for the testing (the technical details) and later shared the updated players’ list along with player squads for the league. They also shared the location of the ground and some photos on being asked for details.
* Karunaratne also committed to participation of four big names from Sri Lanka in the said league – Dilshan Tilakratne, Ferveez Mahroof, Ajanta Mendis, Thilan Tushara — but mentioned on the eve of the match-day that those players may not play as the organisers have not been able to meet the commercials expectations of the players. This was told to FanCode the night before the tournament. There were no other big names in the list as the proposed “league” was all set to go ahead.
* FanCode says it has no idea where the event was being played and their only way of knowing it was a Google location sent by Karunaratne, suggesting the ground to be in UPCA’s premises in Sri Lanka.
* On 29th June 2020, the matches started at the ground along with live-streaming. By the end of the 2nd match (on the same day), FanCode received an email from the SLC — from a certain Chaalaka Silva, manager, legal at SLC ([email protected]) saying that the tournament is not approved by them, nor sanctioned nor organised by the UPCA and they do not recognise the tournament.
* As soon as FanCode received this intimation, they say they immediately stopped streaming the matches on their platform and messaged the organisers (messages went through at first), demanding an explanation. FanCode says it also tried getting in touch with Karunaratne and Vaas but the phone numbers were soon deactivated.
* FanCode got in touch with the SLC once again and provided them with all the details, including copies of emails and all correspondence between their team and the event organisers posing as the UVA League representatives.
* Chaalaka referred FanCode to Tejake Wanigasekara (retd wing commander and manager of Sri Lanka’s anti-corruption unit).
* On 6th July 2020, FanCode lodged a complaint with the Mumbai Police against fraudulent representations made on the basis of forged and fabricated documents and wherein they were “fraudulently tricked upon to telecast the unauthorized cricket match on our platform”.
* This entire episode took place between June 25 & June 29, with FanCode eventually getting in touch with the Sri Lanka ACU on the 30th. FanCode says it has also reached out to the BCCI ACU to provide all possible support with all required documents and details as available with them, to aid the investigation and “bring the perpetrators to justice”.
The anti-corruption units of ICC, BCCI and SLC, along with Mumbai and the Chandigarh police are further investigating this entire episode. Watch this space for more soon.