The Gibbs ‘thing’

Perhaps the most distressed man following the media coverage of Herschelle Gibbs’ questioning was Derek Crookes. And quite rightly. What the hell was his name brought up for? He was vehemently opposed to any suggestion of accepting match-fixing bribes and has always been on record as saying so. Everyone who testified at the King Commission confirmed this.

Crookes is unfortunately named – because he is anything but! A respected worker in the financial services world in Johannesburg, any suggestion that he was involved in the illicit financial dealings of corrupt bookmakers or match-fixers would not be good for his clients or his reputation. No wonder he acted with a combination of shock, horror and bemusement.

So what happened? How could Gibbs and his lawyer, Peter Whelan, have read the outcome of the questioning so abjectly differently to chief investigating officer, Ranjeet Narayan? There are, perhaps, as many as five different reasons for this enormous lack of cohesion.

The first is that Dr KK Paul, who opened the case originally in 2000, has become a ‘celebrity cop’ as a result of his coup and his career has burgeoned as a result. Narayan and others could be forgiven for wishing to continue in Paul’s footsteps. In order to do so, the case needs to be prolonged. It may be a cynical point of view, but the second reason confirms the first.

The second is that the Indian police force could not buy the kind of positive publicity this case is giving them in the eyes of the largest single population on earth. The message is clear in this cricket-mad nation:

“Nobody is above the law – not Bollywood stars, and not even famous cricketers.” It is, therefore, in their interests to maintain the profile of the case.

The third is the use of language. “Mostly there has been no problem – Indian English is generally good – but the truth is, there have been some serious, serious moments of misinterpretation and misunderstanding,” Whelan said.

The fourth is the King Commission: “They have had very little regard for the findings of the King Commission and have said as much themselves. The King Commission was a civil hearing rather than a criminal one and it was held under South African jurisdiction. They would clearly prefer to hold their own investigation and that’s understandable,” Whelan said. As far as the police are concerned, evidence given under oath the Judge Edwin King in July 2000 was completely inconsequential. Therefore, old news to South Africans became breaking news in India six years later. And the
exoneration of Crookes was inconsequential.

The fifth is pride. Barely three weeks ago Gibbs called the Indian police “hard arses” in a magazine interview, a comment which had not escaped the attention of his interrogators.

“The first thing Narayan said was ‘Mr Gibbs, we are not hard arses. We are just doing our job,'” said Whelan.

Citizens of most countries in the world would regard their police force being termed as ‘hard-arsed’ a compliment. But in this case, Narayan and his team may just have seen it as reason to prolong the investigation – and benefit from its further exposure.

Either way, we have finally reached “everyone wins” status. Narayan and the Police can continue to benefit, Gibbs and South Africa can benefit, we, the media, can continue to cover the story, and you, the readers, listeners and viewers, can continue to be entertained.

No matter that the story is six years old.

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