Cricket World Cup: Free passes for sale

Is larger scam at work ?

Tehelka SIT investigation raises serious questions about potential existence of a larger network in the illegal sale of free passes and black marketing of match tickets.

Two days after Tehelka’s exposé on the rampant sale of complimentary passes during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in India, the Kolkata police summoned Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president Snehasish Ganguly for questioning in connection with the black marketing of cricket World Cup tickets. However, Snehasish Ganguly, who is the brother of  former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, had not responded to the police summons at the time of filing this report. Media reports indicate the Kolkata police have seized 94 cricket World Cup tickets and arrested 16 individuals for their alleged involvement in this illicit trade. A total of seven different cases have been registered so far.

In the first part of our investigation, we uncovered the rampant sale of ICC complimentary passes for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, with prices fluctuating based on match demand. During the investigation, we encountered Pankaj Verma, a seasoned ticket tout, who revealed his ability to procure complimentary passes for virtually any desired match — all at a premium, of course.

On October 15th, our reporter’s first meeting with Pankaj Verma revealed his illicit trade in ICC complimentary passes. Pankaj offered a pass for the India-New Zealand match in Dharamsala, priced at Rs 15,000. After some haggling, he agreed to sell it for Rs 13,000. Of course, the reporter’s objective was not to attend the match but to expose the rampant corruption in the system. Before parting ways, Pankaj assured the reporter that he could arrange complimentary passes for other matches as well, costing Rs 12,000 per pass.

To verify Pankaj Verma’s habitual involvement in the sale of illicit passes, we decided to make another purchase.  This time, he offered two complimentary passes for the India-England match in Lucknow on October 29, priced at Rs 7,000 per pass.  Pankaj delivered the passes to us at the five star hotel of Delhi, charging a total of Rs 14,000 for the pair of passes.  

During our meeting, Pankaj put a tantalizing proposition to the reporter. In addition to the complimentary passes he had been offering, he said that he could also secure “Box” seat passes for us at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. These passes would provide access to exclusive seating rights next to the players’ dugouts, along with free snacks and cold drinks. Pankaj further promised to provide us with two complimentary box passes for the Australia-England match scheduled for November 4 in Ahmedabad. He said that these passes were a personal favour from a friend, but hastened to add that any subsequent box passes would come at a cost, with rates varying depending on the teams involved in the match.

Reporter- Ye batao cricket mein jo banda hai jis sey aap pass le rahe ho… wo sirf passes tak hi limited hai ya aagey…?

Pankaj- Aagey wo box (seats) etc bhi dilwata hai…aap bata dena box bhi dilwa dunga..

Reporter- Sir pehle kyun nahi bataya..?

Pankaj- Box is wale (match) ki nahi hai..Bombay wale k liye ho jayega..?

Reporter- Bombay ka kaunsa match hai…?

Pankaj- Bombay mein bhi ek match hai.

Reporter- India ka Sri Lanka k saath ?

Pankaj- I think ..Sri Lanka ke saath.

Pankaj- Ahmedabad k pass chahiye to bata dena box ka…wo to mera ek friend of cost dilwa dunga..

Reporter- Ahmedabad mein kiska hai…?

Pankaj- India ka nahi hai ..par kisi ka hai 4 November ko…

Pankaj- Ahmedabad agar dekhna hai to box hai..?

Reporter- Box ekdum free hai..

Pankaj- Haan 1-2 ticket karwa dunga.. 2 le lo aap

Reporter- Free karwa do..ya kisi aur ka ho box..

Pankaj- Dekho aur jagah to I think paid hai wo…yahan ka na mera kafi accha hai…wo kya kehtey hain banda aviation wagera k ander ka hai…to kisi ne bas de diye…

Reporter- ICC ka koi banda hoga..?

Pankaj- Jo free hai free hai..

Reporter- Mujhe ye lag raha hai aapka jo bhi banda haina…wo ICC ka koi banda hoga ussey le rahe hai..?

Pankaj- Nahi -nahi… that is a sponsorship…jo brands wagera sponsor kar rahe hain…cricket etc k ander jaise ki XXXX hain, XXXX tyres hain….inhoney jo sponsorship kartey hain na inko kuch passes miltey hain…staff k liyeya..unke known wagera k liye ye wo wala scene hai..

Reporter- Accha

Reporter- Sir ye batao.. semifinal-final ka kya scene hai..milege passes ?

Pankaj- Mil jayengey..aap mujhe bata dena kaun sa chahiye … Ahmedabad wala agar box chahiye free of cost to mujhe bata dena… 2 karwa deta hoon, mere ko bola tha us bande ne agar aap jaogey to mein dunga.

Reporter- Box mein kya kya hoga..?

Pankaj- Box aapka pavilion ke saath mein hoga.. wahan par snacks …cold drink sab free hoti hai…

Reporter- Acha Ahmedabad ka free mil jayega uske baad ?

Pankaj- Uskey baad sara paid hai…

Reporter- Wo kitney ka milega doosri jagah..paid..

Pankaj- Maine ek baar check karke bataunga…koi idea nahi hai…jo aagey se code hota hai bata dunga..

[In a surprising turn, Pankaj also disclosed his sources, revealing from whom he procured all the complimentary passes, shedding light on the intricate web of connections behind this illegal ticketing operation.]

As the conversation progressed, Pankaj revealed how black marketeers had surreptitiously purchased all the online tickets for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, leaving genuine fans scrambling for seats. He revealed the touts were now profiteering by selling them in the black market, with prices varying in response to the demand for specific matches. He pointed out that tickets for India’s matches were particularly lucrative, fetching significantly higher prices. As an example, Pankaj cited that tickets for the India-England match, originally priced at Rs 3,500, were now commanding a staggering black market rate of Rs 18,000 to 20,000 rupees per ticket.

Reporter- Ye bhi jaise aap keh rahe they demand supply par hoga jaisa aap bata rahe they…?

Pankaj- Exactly log zyadatar India ka match prefer kartey hain…India k time par zyada rate rehta hai..

Reporter- Ticket to inhoney advance mein BCCI ne online rakhey they..?

Pankaj- Haan online rakhey they khatam ho gaya …aaj ki date mein kuch nahi hai… aur mil bhi gaya to 18-20 k se kam nahi hain…

Reporter- India k match ki ya ye wali 29 October ko hai..?

Pankaj- Ye wali…18-20 ki India-England

Reporter- Black mein..?

Pankaj- Haan ji…ye wali jo ticket hai na…ye aapko milegi hi nahi….aapki complimentary ticket mein na…aap ye mat socho ismein paise nahi hai..complimentary mein. aapko itni acchi bay milegi… normal ticket nahi aayegi…complimentary complimentary hai…sirf khaney ko chodh warna complimentary bahut acchi hai…

Reporter- Ye 18k wala ticket kitney ka hai originally…?

Pankaj- 18k wali I think aayegi 3500 rupees mein..

Reporter- Rs 3500 ka 18000 mein…black mein baap re..

Reporter- Lekin saare matches ka black nahi hai sir..?

Pankaj- Saare ka nahi hai but dekhney wale matches ka end moment par black hain…jisne dekhna use dekhna hai…

Reporter- Mujhe lagta hai…jitney bhi black marteers hain unhoney pehle online booking karwa li hai…

Pankaj- Karwa li hai aur dekh bhi aaye hai…aap mano ge nahi..India-Pakistan ka to Rs 24k mein bikey hain..mere friend ne office k bande ne kai jagah dekar aaye hain…

[Pankaj provided insights into the intricate workings of the black market ticket trade for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. These ticket touts were now reselling the tickets at exorbitant prices, capitalizing on the high demand for certain matches, particularly those involving India.]

Pankaj confided in our reporter that he was initially apprehensive when he met us for the first time. His apprehension stemmed from the fact that he was selling free passes, which were strictly prohibited under ICC regulations. Also, he was uncertain about our identities and intentions.

In a candid conversation, Pankaj disclosed that the passes he was providing to us were not actually free in the strictest sense. Someone had, in fact, spent money to obtain these passes, emphasizing that securing complimentary passes was no simple feat as only insiders with privileged access could do so.

Reporter- Aur batao sir…us din to aap itna darrey hue they…?

Pankaj- Aise kaam na mein karta nahi hoon, jaise ye abhi aaye hue hain…to mein ye hi charity kar raha hoon…

Reporter- Is kaam mein aisa kya galat hai..?

Pankaj- Galat matlab…kisi k complimentary aa rahe hain kyun sale karna…complimentary mein.

Reporter- Accha free pass sale kar rahe ho aap ?

Pankaj- Free pass nahi hai ye isko bhi ..paid hota hai..

Reporter- Originally dekha jaye to ye free pass hai…?

Pankaj- Uske pass kuch na kuch portion hota hai ki wo pay karega…complimentary agar aap le rahe sabko nahi milta ..right…matlab jiske pass bahut acchi setting hogi uske baad hi wo complimentary passes le payega……itna easy nahi hai complimentary lena..

Reporter- Hmm..wahi

Pankaj- Uske liye…wo iski cost nahi hogi…but …jo le raha hai wo kuch na kuch cost pay kar raha hai….kyunki demand supply wala game hai…

[Pankaj disclosed he was initially wary of our reporter even as he explained that laying hands on complimentary passes was no mean task as it required insider connections.]

Pankaj revealed to our reporter that during our first encounter he was so overwhelmed with fear, that he fabricated details about his personal life. Pankaj said  that he had lied about owning a business during their first meeting, while in reality he was employed in the treasury department of a reputable private airline.

Furthermore, Pankaj acknowledged the moral complexities of his actions, conceding that selling complimentary passes was a dubious endeavor that he had engaged in, but he was drawn to the easy money.

Reporter- Aap job mein ho apna business hai…?

Pankaj- Job mein hoon

Reporter- Us din aap apna business keh rahe they.?.

Pankaj- Wo to aisey hi… pehli baar mila tha.

Reporter- Haha…bahut zyada dare hue they aap…?

Pankaj- Dekho ji karna nahi hai..aisey kaam mere ko na bahut ajeeb lagtey hain…mein apna settled hoon…aapne XXXX ka naam suna hoga?

Reporter- XXXX airlines ?

Pankaj- Haan mein XXXX mein job karta hoon…

Reporter- Aap XXXX airlines mein job kartey hain. Kya hain aap wahan..?

Pankaj- wahan par mein apna role dekhta hoon treasury ka…

[Pankaj, who claimed to be an employee of a private airline, admitted that he was conflicted about his work of selling complimentary passes for easy money. This admission hinted at the ethical dilemmas he may have faced in his line of work.]

After providing us with three complimentary passes for two different matches of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, Pankaj assured us that he would continue to secure free passes for all upcoming matches at our request,  while maintaining reasonable prices. Remarkably, he claimed that he hadn’t profited from the sale of the three free passes we had acquired for the two  matches.

Reporter- Aur baki matches ka kya scene hai..?

Pankaj- Baki ka aap bata dena …mein aapke liye mangwaonga.. mere ko zyada wo nahi hai..but aapke liye mil jayega…1-2 karwa donga.

Reporter- Rate sahi lagwa do…?

Pankaj- Rate ka aap mann lo mainey aapko aisey hi bataya hai…kuch bhi nahi kamaya.

Reporter- Accha jo aagey k milenge wo ticket hongey ya complimentary?

Pankaj- Complimentary honge..ticket wagera nahi hain…wo wale Australia- Neitherland k tickets they…wo I think 1500 k they 2000 mein diya tha..

Reporter- 500 rupees zyada..?

[Even after selling us three complimentary passes for two separate ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup matches, Pankaj promised that he’d provide more free passes for future games at fair prices, claiming that he hadn’t made a profit from the passes he’d sold us.]

We paid Pankaj Rs 10,000 for two complimentary passes for the India-England match on October 29 in Lucknow. Pankaj however insisted that we pay the full amount of Rs. 14,000, as we had agreed. Butwe declined to make the additional 4,000 rupee payment on the spot, informing him that we would settle the remaining amount later through PAYTM.

Reporter- Lo gino…

Pankaj  (counts money…)

Reporter- 10 ho gaye sir…?

Pankaj- 14 bola tha.. mainey pehle hi bola tha..

Reporter- Chalo baaki mein paytm kar dunga…

Pankaj- Haan haan no problem

Reporter- Kyunki mere pass cash nahi hai…

Pankaj- Aap mujhe paytm kal ya abhi kar dijiyega..

Reporter- Mein kar dunga abhi thoda sa network ka issue hai…mein kar dunga…

Pankaj- Theek hai..

Reporter- 10 k ho gaye sir…thoda sa network ka issue hai…

Pankaj- Theek hai…

Reporter- 10k ho gaye..29 October key.

Pankaj- Aap mujhe aagey wala bata dena right…aap paytm kar dena mujhe aagey de dena hai…

Reporter- Aap tension mat lo sir…Rs 14k ke 2 tickets..… 2 complimentary India- England 29 October.

[When we handed over Rs. 10,000 for two passes for the India-England match, Pankaj demanded full payment for complimentary passes.  But we refused to pay the remaining Rs. 4,000 on the spot, opting to settle it later via PAYTM.]

When we inquired about acquiring the two complimentary passes for Rs 10,000, Pankaj declined our request, noting that he had already extended a Rs 2,000 discount on the first pass. He expressed his inability to offer any further discount for the two passes and emphasized that he was earning a modest Rs 500 which merely covered his petrol expenses. He said that he was essentially providing us with assistance.

Reporter- Ab aagey ka dekh lena.. thoda discount dilwa do..?

Pankaj- Sir mein aapko kya bataoon..mainey pehle hi Rs 15k par 2000 discount tab diya..

Reporter- Ye 10k ka kar lo..?

Pankaj- Agar hota to mein definitely deta ..seriously…aapko mainey pehle hi bol are really a kind person..

Reporter- Thanks a lot.

Pankaj- Mere koi bhi negotiable nahi hai..mein bhi kuch nahi kama raha sir, sirf Rs 500 bachtey hain ..petrol padh jata hai…mein to sirf aapki help kar raha hoon..

Reporter- Thank you sir…thanks for coming.

[When we proposed purchasing the two passes for Rs 10,000, Pankaj declined, citing the Rs 2,000 discount he’d already provided on the first pass. He couldn’t offer additional discounts and mentioned he was making a nominal profit of Rs 500 to cover his petrol expenses and was only helping us.]

This marks the second instalment of our investigation into the sale of complimentary passes for the cricket World Cup. We’ve unveiled Pankaj Verma’s involvement in selling these passes on two occasionsNews reports from various cricketing centers indicate that agents are being caught selling World Cup tickets in black, and cases are being registered against them.Pankaj Verma’s two encounters captured on Tehelka’s camera raise serious questions about the potential existence of a larger scam in the distribution of free passes and the black market availability of tickets. The responsibility now falls on the ICC and BCCI to answer the concerns raised by our investigations.