Two weeks after setting in motion a sequence of events that led to the resignation of Shashi Tharoor from government, Lalit Modi found himself in the trenches facing hostile fire on two fronts — from official investigators probing allegations of financial impropriety and fellow cricket administrators keen to oust him from his job as Indian Premier League Commissioner.
On Thursday, Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate officials in Mumbai questioned Mr. Modi for several hours on his five-star hotel office-cum-residential premises. Elsewhere across India, the ambit of investigations into the IPL was expanded to cover franchisees, sponsors, broadcasters, event managers and all other companies associated with the T-20 extravaganza.
Mr. Modi, who has questioned the right of the Board of Control for Cricket in India to convene the IPL governing council without his consent, was also reportedly considering whether to seek a legal injunction against the meeting now set for April 26.
In the first government statement on the matter since the IT department-led fishing expedition began two days ago, Sports Minister M.S. Gill told the Rajya Sabha that the IPL's affairs were being looked into carefully and in great detail.
On his part, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said everyone would come to know when the process was complete. “I cannot comment on investigations by the Income Tax department.''
Among the companies where taxmen came calling were the Sahara Group in Lucknow, which recently won the IPL Pune franchise, and the infrastructure and power firm, GMR, which owns Delhi Daredevils.
I-T officials also concluded their search of the Kolkata Knight Riders office in Kolkata, claiming they had uncovered “documents'' relating to IPL dealings. The papers pertaining to the MoU between KKR and the Cricket Association of Bengal were reportedly missing. In Mumbai, the office of Red Chillies Entertainment, owned by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, was also searched.
“Our effort is to track any illegal money and uncover the murky financial dealings done in IPL under the garb of promoting cricket,” a senior tax official told The Hindu.
“We are not aiming to kill the enterprise of IPL but are definitely concerned about the involvement of slush money and the tax evasion angle,'' he said.
CSK owners cleared
Chennai Special Correspondent reports:
The owners of Chennai Super Kings, India Cements Ltd., have been cleared by I-T officials after the completion of a survey in connection with the IPL.
On Wednesday, about 20 I-T officials carried out document-based investigation on the premises of India Cements. Director-General of Income-Tax (Investigation) P.K. Sarangi told The Hindu: “They have shown us all the documents. We have not found any suspicious transactions. We do not have any adverse information about their transactions. We have completed our survey.