New Delhi: Tax surveys, a promise of ownership details of all teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL), and reports that the league’s commisioner Lalit Modi will now have to share his powers with the Indian cricket board’s chief—Thursday saw several sharp turns in the controversy surrounding the Kochi team and its spat with Modi.
Meanwhile, minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor, whose friend Sunanda Pushkar was given a stake valued at Rs70 crore in the Kochi team (on paper) for free, worked on his defence by meeting key Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, and preparing a statement to be read out in the Lok Sabha.
On Thursday, both Houses of Parliament debated the Dantewada massacre, where 76 policemen were killed by Maoists, and home minister P. Chidambaram made statements both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The opposition parties, which raised the pitch of the debate, are likely to do the same with the Tharoor issue on Friday.
Later on Thursday, television channel NDTV, citing unnamed Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sources, said the board’s chief Shashank Manohar would become IPL co-chairman along with Modi, significantly curbing the powers of a man who has run the league for three years. Mint couldn’t independently confirm this. IPL vice-chairman Niranjan Shah denied this and said Manohar, by virtue of being head of BCCI, was anyway the top decision-making authority for IPL as well.
The day also saw a change in the top management of the Kochi team.
I-T dept deals itself in
The income-tax (I-T) department’s move may have been prompted by allegations and counter-allegations by Modi and the Kochi team. Modi raised issues about ownership; one of the team’s owners alleged that the IPL commissioner had offered the consortium of owners $50 million (Rs222 crore) to walk away. Modi has denied this.
The tax department in Mumbai conducted a survey at the office of IPL, according to a tax official who did not want to be identified. Later on Thursday, evening television channels reported that Modi’s hotel room in Mumbai was also being surveyed by the tax department.
According to the tax official and a person familiar with the matter who did not want to be identified, the Ahmedabad tax department started an enquiry into companies owned by Mukesh Patel, a Gujarat-based businessman associated with Parinee Developers, a shareholder in the Kochi team. However, B.N. Dutta, director general, income-tax investigation, Ahmedabad, denied conducting a search at any firm.
Another agency, the enforcement directorate, or ED, which looks at violations of the country’s rules governing foreign exchange transactions, dealt itself into the controversy on Thursday. “We are looking at the funds flow of certain teams,” said an ED official who did not want to be identified.
The tax official added that the survey (the department uses this terminology to differentiate the exercise from a search) at IPL headquarters was part of a limited Inquiry on IPL franchisees being conducted to ascertain their source of funds. A limited enquiry is a preliminary one and the I-T department conducts an investigation only if it identifies any discrepancies. Surveys typically include an inspection of books and verification of cash holdings and other documents.
TV channel CNBC-TV18 reported that Modi had been summoned by the tax department to record his statement. Mint couldn’t independently confirm this.
The Kochi team is owned by Rendezvous World Sports Ltd (1%), a group of investors including Pushkar (25% that had been transferred to them by Rendezvous), Anchor Earth Movers Pvt. Ltd (27%), Parinee Developers Pvt. Ltd (26%), Film Waves Combine (12%), Anand Shyam Pvt. Ltd (8%), and Vivek Venugopal (1%), according to a tweet by Modi.
The Kochi team has maintained that this tweet, which broke a confidentiality agreement between the teams and BCCI, and Modi’s delay in signing an agreement with it were prompted by his desire to have someone else enter IPL as the 10th franchisee. The Sahara Group and the Rendezvous consortium had won the rights to the ninth and 10th teams in the league in an auction held on 21 March.
Changes in the side
Meanwhile, the PTI reported that the Kochi franchise made some changes to its top management, appointing Dubai-based businessman Harshad Mehta, one of the investors in the team, as chairman and Keshav T. as chief executive in place of Rendezvous’ Shailendra Gaikwad.
Mint couldn’t independently verify this or reach Gaikwad.
The Kochi franchise had already threatened to sue Modi for disclosing its ownership structure and asked him to do so for other teams as well. On Thursday, BCCI president Manohar sent an email to Modi and the governing council of IPL suggesting that the council meet at the earliest, according to a BCCI official. Other council members endorsed this suggestion. No date has been fixed for the meeting, but the BCCI official, who did not want to be identified, said it would most likely be convened during the week and before 24 April, when the BCCI working committee is to meet.
Shortly after receiving Manohar’s email, added this person, Modi sent out one of his own to the team owners, copied to the IPL’s governing council members, requesting their permission to make public the ownership structures of the eight teams so that “doubts and aspersions being cast by members of the governing council are appropriately rebutted”.
Mint hasn’t seen the emails.
Former BCCI president and member of the IPL governing council I.S. Bindra, along with Jay Mehta, co-owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders team, and Manoj Badale, who owns a 50.3% stake in Rajasthan Royals, endorsed Modi’s suggestion on email while more responses are awaited, the BCCI official said.
Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd, in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange, said that its wholly owned subsidiary Deccan Chargers Sporting Ventures Ltd owned the Deccan Chargers team.
“I have asked the governing council to approve it (the intention to share ownership structures) and whenever they do, I will disclose these,” said Modi.
Liz Mathew in New Delhi, Gouri Shah in Mumbai and PTI contributed to this story.