With the battle to oust Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi shifting to the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the Centre on Wednesday turned its full attention to allegations that the wheels of the T20 juggernaut were being lubricated by political influence peddling and illegal infusion of funds. In a coordinated move, Income Tax officials in Mumbai swooped down on three event management and broadcast firms connected to the IPL, while IT investigators sought financial and shareholding details from the 10 team-owning franchisees across India.
At the political level, BCCI vice-president and Congress MP Rajiv Shukla met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to apprise him of the developments on the IPL front.
Modi hits back
On his part, Mr. Modi finally hit back at his detractors, challenging the BCCI's right to convene a special meeting of the IPL governing council on April 26. ‘Leaked' emails between the IPL boss and BCCI members also mysteriously surfaced on Wednesday, part of the widening armoury of a battle that looks set to become as gladiatorial as the cricket tournament itself.
Amid swirling allegations of benami shares involving politicians and their relatives in the IPL, the Finance Ministry has constituted eight enforcement teams. Their investigations will be spread out across the country with I-T offices in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Delhi, Kochi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Pune asked to source out information about financial transactions, money flows and team ownership across all franchises.
The Enforcement Wing of the Finance Ministry is also learnt to have sent a team of officials to Mauritius to probe certain “shell companies'' suspected of routing unaccounted money into IPL franchises.
In Kolkata and Chennai, taxmen visited the offices of the Kolkata Night Riders (KKR), owned by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, and India Cements, which owns the Chennai Super Kings team, “seeking information” on the investments made by their managements in the IPL. I-T officials are slated to visit the premises of the other six IPL teams in their quest for information.
Moving swiftly, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) slapped notices under Section 3 of the Foreign Exchange Management Act. As of now, the ED has registered a case against unknown persons and will inquire into the transfer of foreign funds. But if the name of any person crops up during the inquiry, show-cause notices would be issued to him and he would be included in the case, highly placed sources said.
In Mumbai, a team of over 50 I-T officials started “search” operations on the premises of Multi Screen Media, World Sports Group and Pat Magnarella Management on Wednesday morning. It is alleged that MSM paid WSG a facilitation fee of $80 million for the IPL telecast rights, a deal in which the IPL management is said to be involved. There have been reports that funds from tax havens like Mauritius and the Cayman Islands have been pumped into the league by various franchisees in violation of FEMA provisions.
Known earlier as Sony Entertainment Television, MSM bought the telecast rights for the T20 tournament for 10 years from 2008 from WSG, which had acquired them through tender.
The IPL tax probe started with the Kochi franchise on April 14, amid allegations that the former Union Minister of State, Shashi Tharoor, had a proxy stake in the team. I-T officials visited the IPL offices in Mumbai and questioned Mr. Modi. When none of the documents pertaining to the recent bids were available at the IPL or BCCI offices, the I-T department obtained a search warrant and broadened the probe to cover all teams.