Fake IPL set up to trick Russian punters

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Ahmedabad (India) (AFP) – A gang of crooks have staged a fake Indian Premier League tournament with farmhands playing the role of gamblers to trick Russian punters into a betting scam reminiscent of the 1973 Oscar-winning film ‘The Sting’.

The crooks managed to reach the quarter-final stage of their so-called ‘Indian Premier Cricket League’ before the racket was busted by Indian police.

The tournament started three weeks after the IPL ended in May, police say, but that did not bother the gang, who they say rented a remote farmhouse in the western state of Gujarat.

They set up a cricket pitch, complete with “boundary lines and halogen lights”, Police Inspector Bhavesh Rathod told reporters.

“In addition to this, the defendant had installed high-resolution cameras on the pitch and used computer-generated graphics to display the scores on a live broadcast screen,” he added.

The gang hired laborers and unemployed youths for 400 rupees ($5) per match and broadcast the matches live on a YouTube channel called “IPL”.

The players took turns wearing Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Titans shirts, police said, acting on instructions from the Russia-based mastermind.

Crowd noise sound effects were uploaded to the internet and a speaker capable of imitating one of the real Indian IPL commentators was used to make the tournament look authentic.

At the same time, the cameraman ensured that the entire pitch was not shown, instead broadcasting beaming close-ups of the players.

Russian punters were tricked into betting their rubles on a Telegram channel set up by the gang, which then alerted the fake referee on the pitch using walkie-talkies.

The supposed official “would signal the bowler and batsman to hit a six, a four or go out,” Rathod added.

A “quarter-final” match was being played “when we got a whistleblower and broke the racquet,” Rathod said.

The accused had received a first payment of more than 300,000 rupees (nearly $4,000) from punters in Russia, Rathod said.

The scheme echoes “The Sting”, the 1973 film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, in which a group of con artists set up a fake gambling operation in order to defraud a mobster.

India’s Cricket Control Board did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

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