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Judge Ngoepe hits back at match-fixing racism claims

Judge Ngoepe hits back at match-fixing racism claims
(Photo: Adobestock)

Judge Bernard Ngoepe has hit back at claims by former Proteas wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile that a match-fixing investigation only targeted black players and that he did not receive any charges during the investigation that started in 2015.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) is beset with attacks and allegations from all sides at the moment. If it were a cricket match, the CSA would be a batsman weathering a torrid storm of hostile fast bowling.

On Friday the organisation released a statement, responding to claims made by former Proteas wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile on a local radio station that only black players were targeted in an investigation into match fixing.

Tsolekile alleged that Ngoepe, a former Judge President and a former acting judge in the Constitutional Court, was guilty of targeting black players and of racial bias during the investigation. The judge responded swiftly and categorically.

“The allegation that the investigation deliberately targeted black players must be rejected,” Ngoepe said in a statement released by CSA. “Both white and black players were investigated and charged, based on the evidence that was collected and presented.”

On the allegation made by Tsolekile that he was not presented with any evidence and did not receive any charges, Judge Ngoepe said: “This is not the truth. Mr Tsolekile received a formal charge sheet as is required under the code. He was also presented with extensive evidence in the presence of his lawyer.”

 

Tsolekile banned for match-fixing

Tsolekile was handed a 12-year ban from cricket exactly four years ago for his role in fixing games in South Africa’s 2015 T20 Ram Slam competition. Tsolekile, along with Pumelela Matshikwe, Ethy Mbhalati and Jean Symes were sanctioned on 8 August 2016. Left-arm bowler Lonwabe Tsotsobe was also later banned, as was Proteas batsman Alviro Petersen.

Fast bowler Matshikwe and batsman Symes, who both played under Tsolekile for the Lions franchise, were banned for 10 and seven years respectively. Former Titans fast bowler Mbhalati was given a 10-year ban.

Former provincial batsman Gulam Bodi masterminded the plot after being approached by India-based businessman Manish Jain. Bodi was asked to influence matches in CSA’s domestic T20 competition in 2015.

He was also introduced to Imran Mushkan Shimji, an alleged middleman for various bookmakers. Bodi was in a position to distribute incentives of between R600,000 and R700,000 as well as a luxury watch for each of the eight players he recruited to join the scheme.

Bodi was banned from cricket for 20 years in January 2016 and was later sentenced to five years in prison as the ringleader of the match-fixing plot.

On Wednesday night, Tsolekile told host Robert Marawa on his SABC show that Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Robbie Frylinck had also participated in match-fixing, but were not pursued because they were white.

“Gulam approached Vaughn at North West during the Africa T20 Cup. But Vaughn never disclosed anything,” Tsolekile said. “When he was asked by lawyer David Becker and the investigation officers, he said he was approached. But the investigation team defended him because he was a white player.

“For the last five years, my financial earnings have been cut. Vaughn, for the last five years, has been earning a salary. Frylinck was also involved in this. He did a game in the Champions League Twenty20, according to Bodi. But Frylinck, as an ex-Proteas player, he is still playing and I am not.”

During the radio show, Tsolekile also claimed the investigation was carried out by the South African Cricketers’ Association (Saca). It was, in fact, carried out by CSA’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) under the guidance and authority of Judge Ngoepe.

Saca hired and paid for a lawyer to defend Tsolekile, who, months into the investigation,  admitted guilt. It could have saved Saca, and by extension South African players who pay fees to Saca, a lot of money if he had come clean initially.

In an increasingly bizarre conversation, Tsolekile said he never met the lawyer (Lourens van Zyl) who represented him, but a few minutes later admitted to sitting in on meetings with his lawyer present.

“Cricket South Africa (CSA) has noted with concern some of the unfounded allegations in the media by certain of the players banned for their part in the match-fixing scandal arising from the 2015 Ram Slam competition,” a statement read.

“A comprehensive investigation was carried out over approximately 18 months with the CSA Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) acting in collaboration with, and with the assistance of, Judge Ngoepe, specialist external lawyers, the ICC, the BCCI, the Hawks and an external digital forensic team. The CSA board was kept regularly updated on developments pertaining to the investigation.

“The players largely co-operated with the investigation. Each of the players was represented by their own attorneys who assisted in advising them on their rights and obligations under the CSA Anti-Corruption Code.

“These attorneys had the opportunity of sitting in on every meeting with the respective players, and assisted them in both evaluating the evidence presented and in concluding their Sanction Agreements in terms of which they pleaded guilty to various corruption-related offences under the code. 

“At no time did any of the players or their respective attorneys submit that they were coerced into admitting their guilt or signing their Sanction Agreements. They did so willingly and, in fact, were consulted on, and provided input into, the respective press releases announcing confirmation of the offences to which they had admitted. Audio and video recordings were made of all the interviews with all the participants and now form part of the ongoing criminal investigation.”

The Hawks’ CSA-appointed anti-corruption officer, Louis Cole, added: “The allegation of match fixing during the Champions League by Mr Frylinck was never mentioned by Mr Tsolekile during his interviews with ACU.

“Both Mr Alexander and Van Jaarsveld reported to the ACU that Mr Bodi had mentioned this as part of his approach,” said Cole. “Although that relates to a separate tournament outside South Africa and falls under the jurisdiction of the ICC, it was referred to the ICC ACU for investigation. At no stage prior to the Ram Slam investigation did Mr Tsolekile or any other player provide any evidence to substantiate this claim as required by the code.

“According to Mr Bodi, he requested Mr Van Jaarsveld to recruit Mr Frylinck to participate in the match fixing scheme. This aspect was thoroughly investigated, including interviewing one of the bookmakers in India, and no evidence was uncovered to support the possibility that Mr Frylinck had been recruited.” DM

 

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