New Delhi/Mumbai: The government has launched a broad-based probe into the funding of the Indian Premier League (IPL) amid speculation that IPL commissioner Lalit Modi will be eased out of the post.
According to Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, investigations have already begun. “All aspects including sources of funding and routes through which the funds arrived would be looked into. Appropriate action as per law would be taken. No guilty or wrong-doer will be spared,” he said in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
While the minister did not specify the investigating departments, Mint has ascertained that both the income- tax (I-T) department and the enforcement directorate (ED), which looks at the violation of the country’s rules governing foreign exchange transactions, have begun their investigations.
Close watch: Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said that IPL investigations have already begun. Raj K Raj/HT
The investigation wing of the I-T department has asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to submit ownership details of all the franchisees of IPL, by Tuesday. “We are confident that we will get all the details during this week. As of now the Mumbai wing has documents of the Kochi team,” a senior I-T official said on condition of anonymity. On 16 April, an ED official, who did not want to be identified, had told Mint that the agency was “looking at the funds flow of certain teams”.
Meanwhile, a BCCI official, who did not want to be identified said Modi would be “knocked out” of his position as chairman of IPL, but would continue as the vice-president of BCCI in his capacity as the vice-president of the Punjab Cricket Association.
Modi couldn’t be reached for comment. On Monday evening he tweeted: “Lots in media-speculations. welcome all investigation-ready to extend all cooperation.”
On Sunday, Shashi Tharoor, the former minister of state for external affairs in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, resigned after almost a week of high drama. Tharoor had been under fire from the opposition parties after it was highlighted by Modi that the minister’s friend Sunanda Pushkar had been issued sweat equity worth Rs70 crore in the Kochi IPL team owned by the Rendezvous Sports World Ltd consortium. The combine won the bid for one of the two teams that will join the league next year, by offering to pay $333.33 million (Rs1,487 crore today).
BCCI president Shashank Manohar has discussed a date for the meeting of the board’s governing council with Modi, said N. Srinivasan, secretary BCCI. He refused to disclose BCCI’s stand in the ongoing controversy. However, the BCCI official cited in the first instance claimed that in the course of an unofficial meeting of the council that took place in Dharamshala in the last weekend, it was decided that Modi would be asked to step down from the post of chairman. “It will, however, be made official only after the governing council meeting.”
Another BCCI governing council member who did not want to be identified said: “Lalit Modi finds himself in a severe minority in the BCCI and in IPL governing council.”
This person added that the books of BCCI, being investigated by the I-T department, were “transparent” and that the only issue the board needed to address was “Modi.”
A lawyer said the government’s investigation of BCCI can be challenged by the body.
“BCCI can still approach a court of law and ask on what grounds (the inquiry on IPL), because their stand has always been that it is a private body, not a government or public body to be subject to such scrutiny,” said Amrut Joshi, a lawyer, who heads the sports practice at MMB Legal, a Bangalore-based corporate law firm. On Monday, the Opposition continued to attack the government on the issue with some of them seeking a probe into IPL by a parliamentary body. Raising the matter in the Lok Sabha, Communist Party of India (CPI) member of Parliament Gurudas Dasgupta alleged that the 20 overs IPL format was a “game of gambling”.
Dasgupta said: “Root of the issue is laundering of black money... A large part of money is coming through Mauritius from Dubai. Swiss bank money is also being laundered.” He demanded an investigation of the league by a joint parliamentary committee.
Senior politicians, Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal-United, Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, backed the CPI leader’s demand. “IPL has become a hub of match-fixing and should no longer continue,” said Sharad Yadav. Deputy leader of main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Gopinath Munde alleged that IPL was a scam involving black money.
Significantly, while Congress representatives did not comment in the House, senior party leader and cabinet minister Vayalar Ravi concurred with the Opposition. Terming IPL as a “glorified gambling”, he told reporters outside Parliament, “it is for the government to look into the whole system”. “What is the IPL? Who are the people (behind the teams)? Where is the money coming from?”
Santosh K. Joy of Mint and PTI contributed to this story.