Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Empires Strike Back All-Out War Against Lalit Modi

Updated: October 30, 2010 4:26 pm

The old guards in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have closed their ranks and after regrouping their forces have struck back with so much vengeance against Lalit Modi that it has stunned even the hardcore opponents of the “fallen czar”. The BCCI had suspended Modi in April and setup a committee to probe bribery allegations in the 2008 awarding of bids for the teams but that it will pursue the case so vigorously and “go for the kill” has surprised most of the observers.

                Conceived and formed in 2008 the IPL, has become world’s richest cricket tournament, with a brand value of over 4 billion dollars. The IPL which decided to add two more teams draws top players from India and abroad. The establishment (read the BCCI bosses) wants to show that Board is bigger than an individual. It also wants break the strangle hold of the Bollywood and other persons have intruded in “sanctum sanctorum” of this cash rich body.

                Lalit Modi had brought in new culture, which had upset the conservatives in the Board. The glamour, glitz and money had taken precedence over cricket and the bosses were feeling left out. IPL had everything going for it. A supine media was going ga ga over it. Top Industrialists, who otherwise rush to government seeking tax relief for small things had no hesitations of spending crores to buy non-descript players—M Mustafa of Bangladesh is example, he earned whopping Rs 8 crore from KKR for whom he bowled four overs in only one match, he played(one over cost Shah Rukh Khan’s company Rs 2 crore).

                Everybody from top industrialists to politicians, to money brokers to film actors everybody wanted to own a team. It was like hitting a golden jackpot. What went so horribly wrong that very foundations of the IPL were shaken and the showcase event for last three years became mother of all ills—betting, slush money, corruption—you just have to name it? Modi and the very powerful coterie in the IPL did not like the entry of a nouveau rich he Shashi Throor in that exclusive club and rest as they say is history.

                But, was Modi all that powerful? Is it possible for one man to run the billion-dollar, “slush money-empire” single-handedly? From the very start questions were raised about the structure of the IPL, but because massive money came so thick and fast that no body bothered to look into the sources. The income tax department kept quiet and enforcement directorate looked the other way. Modi did not buy a plane or a luxury yacht or fleet of cars in a day, but why no action was taken against him till the start of this controversy? But the cookie crumbled, the government, smarting under the humiliation of being forced to drop 10 Janpath loyalists from the ministry, wanted revenge.

                There was no gain saying that concept of IPL from the very start was dubious. It was built around money and more money along with glitz and glamour and in between cricket was thrown in. How money is being generated and accounted for, who are the investors, was the auction system transparent, has it become a source of money laundering and betting are some of the questions now being asked. But, why blame IPL? Its mother BCCI, which has FD’s worth over 1000 crore and telecast right money of another Rs 1000 crore, is not paying tax—it is non profitable institution—can you beat it.

                As far as money laundering is concerned, one should learn from BCCI. After India won T20 world cup, every player was paid a whopping Rs 50 lakh and now every player who breaks or sets-up a new record is given lakh, for a job which he is supposed to do. As it was not enough, the state governments also indulge in laundering, handing over millions of rupees to the already cash rich and spoilt cricketers. These very governments will bring in rules and regulations, if they have to spend even a thousand rupees on a poor or needy person. But all these rules and regulations were thrown out of window and not a one newspaper or TV channel raised the question of this blatant money laundering.

                Every time BCCI’s different committees meet, which are very frequent and at different places, huge some of money is spent. These meetings are so innocuous that it can be conducted through video conferencing or on telephones but to keep all the members money is being squandered with no question asked or answered.

                And as far as match-fixing and betting is concerned one just has to go through the BCCI’s, history of 1990’s. To win election in BCCI millions are spent with no fear of income tax raids or enforcement directorate’s questioning. The well-entrenched bosses wanted to get rid of Lalit Modi, and might have taken a easy course, but the open defiance by Modi and his audacity to challenge the setup relied them, so much that they decided to teach him a lesson, so that in future no body posses a threat to their hegemony.

                With the Government looking into the tax affairs of the League and several other corruption charges, what ever support had in the BCCI has virtually gone. The last straw as far as the BCCI was concerned, was the raids by the Income tax investigators on their offices at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. “Never in the history of BCCI has the Income Tax sleuths raided the offices. It has not only tarnished the image of the Board but has also sullied the IPL brand,” was the reaction of the BCCI officials, who were seething with anger and wanted to get rid of Modi as quickly as possible.

                While ruthlessly dealing with Lalit Modi, BCCI has been openly biased. It cancelled the licenses of two Indian Premier League teams—Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab—that has alleged links with the former IPL chief. Modi’s wife’s brother-in-law is co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals. Modi’s step-daughter is married to the Burman family, which co-owns the Kings XI Punjab while his close friends, the Moranis, bought into the Kolkata Knight Riders.

                The teams will not be allowed to take part in the next edition of the IPL. “The governing council today sought legal opinion and come to a conclusion that contract of Rajasthan franchise and also the Punjab franchise needs to be cancelled for the violation of the franchise agreement,” was BCCI president Shashank Manohar’s explanation, while justifying the action taken against two teams, he said: “The decision to terminate the contracts was taken purely on legal grounds.” Though he rejected allegations that the board was biased in terminating the contracts of the franchisees having links with Modi, saying that BCCI had also issued a notice to a third-franchisee, Kochi, to resolve ownership issues and form a company, the answer was hardly convincing.

                “IPL brand has nothing to do with Lalit Modi, it will not be affected due to the decision,” he asserted. The BCCI also will be involved in the agreement between the players and the franchises after the auction in November. But why Chennai Super King or even Shahrukh Khan’s KKR was not touched, was the question which is still to be answered.

                The team whose inclusion created all this mayhem—Team Kochi—was now in the focus, will BCCI take action against it, after receiving the reply or will give it a reprieve because it has nothing to do with Modi. The BCCI’s drastic decision was widely condemned by the team owners, other franchise owners, top cricketers and of course, Lalit Modi, the disgraced former chief of the IPL. “They are hell bent on destroying something that we as Indians are proud of ‘The IPL’,” tweeted Modi.

                In a series of tweets, Modi lashed out at the BCCI, urging the owners of the teams to “get together and run the league on their own. IPL should not be destroyed”. The alleged violation of the contracts included changes in shareholding patterns and differences in the name of bidders and the final owners.

                According to the sources, irregularities relating to the ownership of the teams emerged, when the board and the government’s enforcement directorate were conducting investigations into their activities, following the dismissal of Modi. Speculation had been rife for the past few weeks about the fate of some of the teams, especially those that were seen to be close to the sacked IPL chief.

                Raj Kundra, one of the co-owners of Rajasthan Royals described the termination of the contract as ‘shocking’. “We are considering to take legal action against the BCCI, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, who is married to Kundra, tweeted that she is too shocked to react, just disheartened… because it’s more than just a team for us”.

                Australian spinner Shane Warne, the Rajasthan Royal’s captain, hoped the BCCI would “come to their senses”. Expressing a sense of dismay, he noted that the Royals had provided opportunities for young-unknown Indian cricketers. “What now for the youngsters?” he asked. Vijay Mallya, owner of the Royal Challengers Bangalore-supported Shilpa: “I wonder, if IPL franchisees are serious stakeholders, whose investments and participation are respected or are they slaves who only come and play?,” Mallya tweeted from his Black Berry.

                He also posted a supportive note on Shilpa’s page, describing the BCCI decision as “downright ridiculous”, which “raises serious questions on the attitude of the board towards IPL franchisees”. As it was not enough, IPL has also divided Australian cricket. Ricky Ponting himself admitted in his latest captain’s diary that the Aussies fought on the issue of their participation in IPL 3. Now, a new issue is leading to a divide in the Australian cricket set-up.

                The decision of the BCCI to remit 10 per cent of foreign players’ auction fee to their national boards has placed the players and Cricket Australia (CA) in a conflict situation. Paul Marsh, chief executive of Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) told the media that the ACA would advise the players not to sign, not only the IPL contracts but also the CA contracts. The players suspect CA had a role in the BCCI’s decision. Marsh admitted that the ACA had made it clear to the CA about their opposition to what they called ‘commission’. “CA simply has no right to effectively charge a ‘commission’ on income earned by players from outside their employment to CA. This is akin to an employer trying to take ten per cent of an employee’s wages from a second job he works on weekends,” Paul said.

                However, the IPL drama is taking dramatic twists every passing day with the latest coming from the BCCI filing a criminal complaint against Lalit Modi. BCCI has accused Modi of “misappropriation of funds to the tune of 4.7 billion rupees (about R712-million)” in its complaint with the Chennai Police. BCCI secretary N Srinivasan says in the complaint that the BCCI also has concerns over irregularities in the bidding process for certain franchisees in the lucrative Indian Premier League.

                Chennai Police Commissioner T Rajendran said police was examining the complaint before forwarding it to its Central Crime Branch. So, besides cricket, glamour, glitz and money now crime has been added in the list of IPL. It is going to be a Bollywood pot boiler—any takers.

By Harpal Singh Bedi

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