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September 16, 2005
Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka's master spinner, has dismissed rumours regarding his alleged connection with a Mumbai bar dancer and, through her, with the betting syndicates.
Over the past week there has been intense speculation in certain sections of the Indian media on the renewed threat of match-fixing. A few Indian and foreign players - who were not mentioned by name, but the insinuations weren't so subtle as to require much second-guessing - were alleged to have connections with various known bookies.
"I have travelled to Mumbai on a few occasions in recent years for official award ceremonies and to attend to family business matters," said Murali in a statement. "On one occasion, I met actor Aditya Pancholi who invited me to dinner. Afterwards, we visited Deepa Bar for approximately one hour before I returned to my hotel.
"Contrary to media speculation, I have never been introduced to and nor do I have any links whatsoever with a woman called Tarannum Khan, who was apparently a dancer in the Deepa Bar. In addition, this was also the only occasion in my life that I visited this particular bar.
"Recent media reports of my close alliance with this bar or the dancer are therefore total fabrications. I have been associated with a match-fixing controversy on the basis that I innocently patronised a bar a few years ago, which I believe is grossly unfair."
The controversy was sparked off following the arrest of Khan, a regular dancer in a suburban Mumbai bar, whose inordinate wealth apparently put the police on her trail. The income tax department had raided her Mumbai residence recently and recovered money to the tune of 50,000 US dollars from there. Khan claimed the money was hers and denied any connections with the bookies.
The police, following certain recent much publicised initiatives, are reported to have uncovered proof on the nexus between big-time bookies, the Hindi film industry and organised criminal gangs. The dancing girls are seemingly a small but indispensable cog in this diabolical wheel.
Meanwhile, Pancholi has denied being summoned by the Mumbai police's crime branch section to be interrogated on his links to the betting syndicates and to Khan. "A summons can be issued only after a case is registered," he maintained, "and that power is vested with the courts not the police."
Murali has further explained that: "Representing Sri Lanka as a cricketer is a truly great honour and a source of immense personal pride. I have always strived to perform to the very best of my ability and have maintained at all times while doing so the highest ethics of the game.
"It is thus deeply upsetting for my family and I that such wild allegations are now being made. I have therefore spoken to my lawyers and I am taking all necessary steps legally available to me in order to safeguard my reputation and integrity."
"I will not be making any further public statements on this subject," he added.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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