Indian authorities arrested a team of organizers behind a fake cricket league that duped Russian gamblers for thousands of dollars, according to reports.
“It was all hoaxes,” Achal Tyagi, a top official overseeing the case, told The New York Times. “We have arrested four people and also are investigating some Indians living in Russia, who are involved in the scam.”
The elaborate hoax reportedly began three weeks after the legitimate Indian Premier League concluded in May. The organizers leased a large farm in the western state of Gujarat and designed it to look like a professional field.
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Police said the organizers created a cricket pitch with “boundary lines and halogen lamps.” Crowd noises and commentators were also set up for livestreaming on a YouTube channel that has now amassed more than 800 subscribers.
A total of 24 fake players were each promised 400 rupees (approximately $5) per match, police said. They were not charged in the case.
Meanwhile, the Russian gamblers — who were mostly based in Moscow, Voronezh and Tver — were lured to place their bets on a Telegram channel. The fake umpire would then be alerted via walkie-talkie.
The scammers collected more than 300,000 rupees (approximately $3,700) in a first installment. Whether they earned more is unclear.
The four suspects have been charged with criminal conspiracy and gambling. Police said one of them had worked at a pub in Russia and got his contacts interested in betting.
“I have never seen a scam like this. These guys just cleared a patch of land deep inside a village and began playing a match and beaming it on YouTube to make money through gambling,” Bhavesh Rathod, another officer investigating the case, told the BBC.
“Even the local villagers were not aware of this. We know very little about the Russians who were putting bets on this game.”