A gang of conmen set up a fake Indian Premier League tournament with farm labourers acting as players to dupe Russian punters in a betting scam reminiscent of the Oscar-winning 1973 movie “The Sting”.
The grifters managed to reach the quarterfinal stage of their so-called “Indian Premier Cricket League” before the racket was busted by Indian police.
The tournament began three weeks after the actual IPL concluded in May, according to police, but that proved no hindrance to the gang, who they said leased a remote farm in the western state of Gujarat.
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They installed a cricket pitch, complete with “boundary lines and halogen lamps,” police inspector Bhavesh Rathod told reporters.
“Besides this the accused had set up high resolution cameras on the ground and used computer generated graphics to display scores on a live streaming screen,” he added.
The gang hired labourers and unemployed youths for 400 rupees ($5) per game and broadcast the matches live over a YouTube channel called “IPL”.
Players took turns to wear jerseys of the Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Titans, police said, acting on the instructions of the Russia-based mastermind.
Crowd noise sound effects were downloaded from the internet and a speaker with a knack for mimicking one of IPL’s real Indian commentators was used to make the tournament appear authentic.
At the same time the cameraman made sure that the entire ground was not shown, beaming close-ups of the players instead.
Russian punters were lured into betting their rubles on a Telegram channel set up by the gang, who would then alert the fake umpire on the pitch using walkie-talkies.
The supposed official “would signal the bowler and batsman to hit a six, four or get out,” Rathod added.
A “quarter-final” match was being played “when we got a tip-off and we busted the racket,” said Rathod.
The accused had received a first instalment of more than 300,000 rupees (nearly $4,000) from the punters in Russia, Rathod said.
The scheme has echoes of “The Sting”, the 1973 movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, in which a group of con artists set up a fake betting operation in order to defraud a gangster.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.