Mumbai: Indian Premier League chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi sought to buy time as he came under increasing pressure from cricket’s governing body to convene a meeting that may lead to his ouster even as the income-tax (I-T) department extended its searches of organizations tied to the Twenty20 tournament.
Modi was asked to convene a meeting of the IPL governing council on 26 April, a day after the final of the third season is to be played, provoking an exchange of emails between him and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Shashank Manohar.
The IPL commissioner told Manohar that the meeting should be held on 1 May, seeking time to arrange for documents necessary to defend himself against allegations relating to the controversy surrounding the Kochi team, according to a BCCI official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The request was disregarded by BCCI secretary N. Srinivasan, who replied to Manohar’s original email and notified the council that the meeting was set for the original date of 26 April.
Modi then sent an email saying it was his “prerogative to set the meeting” and that he was “fully aware of the president’s view”.
Manohar then accused Modi of being ignorant of the constitution of the board and said the secretary was the official responsible for setting the date. In his email, Manohar said the reputation of the board was at stake because of Modi’s handling of the Kochi franchise issue, and that due to media pressure, the meeting would be held as scheduled on 26 April.
On camera: A photographer attempts to capture the scene inside as income-tax officials conducted a raid on Wednesday at the Khar, Mumbai, office of World Sport Group, which holds global media rights for IPL. Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times
Though Modi protested with an email “disagreeing completely” with the president’s point of view, the BCCI official said, “It looks unlikely that Modi will have his way this time.”
Modi said he wouldn’t attend what he described as an unauthorized meeting.
Meanwhile, the investigation wing of the I-T department in Mumbai on Wednesday conducted searches at the office of Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd (formerly Sony Entertainment Television), the official broadcast partner for the Indian Premier League (IPL), and World Sports Group (WSG), the agency that owns the global media rights for the popular cricket tourney.
An I-T official confirmed the development on condition of anonymity. “The searches are being conducted at the offices of Multi Screen Media and World Sports Group in connection with IPL,” he said. He declined to disclose details.
“The investigation is on as of now,” said B.P. Gaur, director general, I-T, investigation.
In 2008, WSG had won the television rights for 10 years. It also signed a deal with Multi Screen Media, making it the official broadcaster for the league.
Under that contract, Multi Screen Media would have paid $918 million (around Rs4,075 crore) for the telecast rights and spent $108 million to market the tournament.
However, in 2009, IPL took the matter to court, and a new deal was negotiated, with Multi Screen Media having to pay $1.6 billion for telecast rights for nine years.
Repeated calls and messages to top officials belonging to Sony MAX and Multi Screen Media remained unanswered till the time of going to press.
WSG said in a statement on Wednesday that income-tax officials visited its office in Mumbai seeking information on contractual arrangements with BCCI and IPL.
Last week, the income-tax department had conducted a survey at the BCCI as a part of an inquiry into IPL franchises to ascertain their source of funds. After the survey, the tax authorities had also asked BCCI to submit ownership details of all the IPL franchises.
The department also searched the Chennai office of India Cements Ltd, which owns the Chennai Super Kings team, in connection with IPL. N. Srinivasan, vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements, confirmed the development.
Searches were also conducted on Wednesday at the office of the Cricket Association of Bengal, which is also home to the Kolkata Knight Riders team owned by actor Shah Rukh Khan.
Shutapa Paul in Kolkata contributed to this story.