13 May 2015

Supreme Court appointed SIT claims cricket betting a major source of black money, endorses FICCI report demanding legalisation of sports betting

The Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Justice (retired) MB Shah probing ways to bring back unaccounted ‘black’ money has in its third interim report stated that cricket betting is a major source of unaccounted money. As per reports in the media regarding the sealed SIT report, a FICCI estimate pegging the illegal betting market in India to be Rs. 3,00,000 crores (or roughly US$5o billion as per prevailing exchange rates) is accepted by the SIT panel.

“Large amounts of black money are being transacted every year. As per the FICCI report, it comes to more than Rs three lakh crore. This is required to be controlled ” the summary of the report is said to have stated. A February 2015 FICCI study on tackling black money had listed illegal sports betting as a major source of generation of black money and had suggested legalising and taxing the activity could generate Rs. 12,000-19,000 crore of annual revenue (this FICCI report derived the Rs. 3,00,000 crore figure and other estimates from earlier FICCI and KPMG reports).

The Supreme Court had formed the Special Investigation Team to probe unaccounted black money in India based on a Writ Petition filed by Ram Jethmalani, Senior Advocate and former Law Minister of India in 2009. By an order dated 4th July 2011, the Supreme Court had ordered the formation of an SIT to investigate and direct prosecution of all those involved in stashing of unaccounted black money. Further, as per the order of the Court, the Special Investigation Team was also entrusted with the responsibility of preparing a “comprehensive action plan, including the creation of necessary institutional structures that can enable and strengthen the country’s battle against generation of unaccounted monies, and their stashing away in foreign banks or in various forms domestically.”

On 20th January 2015, the Supreme Court directed the SIT to take into account suggestions of the petitioners and come up with a confidential report on steps that can be taken to curb circulation of black money. The suggestions of the petitioners and independent analysis of the SIT members ultimately culminated in the recent interim report. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court takes cognisance of the ‘cricket betting angle’ in the black money probe and directs the central and state governments to consider legalising betting/gambling.

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