Lalit Modi: Insider seeks revenge
by Sandhya Jain on 30 Jun 2015 14 Comments
When the dazzling sun of a universe peopled by cricketers, politicians, film stars, corporate and media celebrities, and betting mafias, is worsted in a palace coup, stages a comeback but gets cheated of his prize, there is bound to be payback. There is some merit in Indian Premier League creator Lalit Modi’s anger at politicians controlling cash-rich sports bodies. Hence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has wisely concluded that the misguided magnanimity of Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje towards the former IPL czar does not warrant the resignation of either.


Ms Raje signed a letter in his support in 2011, but did not appear as a witness in his fight for residency rights in London. Ms Swaraj helped him to travel to Portugal to be with his wife during a risky cancer surgery. The pertinent assistance came from three retired Supreme Court judges who opined that the Enforcement Directorate’s plea to have Lalit Modi’s passport impounded was illegal; that there was no case against him in any court of law; that the ED could have interrogated him in London or via video-conferencing. A senior journalist informed the London court that the Enforcement Directorate seemed biased as Mr Modi alone had been served notice for financial irregularities in the IPL, whereas the actions being investigated were of the entire Board of Control for Cricket in India, especially as he was not the signing authority in any impugned action.


Indeed, it was only after this testimony that notices were served on other members. The ED interrogated them and examined all documents in India; it should have been able to file a charge sheet against Mr Modi. The failure to do so is as inexplicable as the UPA’s refusal to offer him the security he desired in order to return. It must be added that Mr Modi’s return was not a priority of the Narendra Modi government; he burst on the regime’s radar with a news leak against British MP Keith Vaz.


In December 2013, Mr Lalit Modi contested the election for president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association, which suggests he wanted to return to India, but needed a position to ensure his physical security. But the BCCI suspended the RCA under Rule 32 (vii) immediately after the election. Ultimately the results were declared under Supreme Court observation in May 2014, but the BCCI was permitted to challenge the Rajasthan Sports Act that enabled Mr Modi to contest the president’s post despite a life ban imposed the BCCI had imposed.


The real war is over control of the lucrative BCCI and its glitzy offshoot, the IPL, conceived and taken to dizzying heights by Mr Modi. The main issues concern (1) the South Africa IPL and (2) match-fixing in which N Srinivasan was made to step down by the Supreme Court in 2014. That his successor, Jagmohan Dalmiya, has been found ‘incoherent’ and ‘incomprehensible’ by a Supreme Court-appointed committee probing allegations of spot- fixing in the IPL, raises legitimate questions about BCCI functioning and control.


Mr Lalit Modi received 16 show-cause notices from the ED and posted them, with his replies, on his website, A study shows that Cricket South Africa was requested to host the IPL in 2009 after the Indian government refused permission due to the general election. Together, BCCI and CSA floated an entity called IPL (SA) Pty Ltd.


The ED claims this entity was floated only for the purpose of opening a bank account in South Africa, which was effectively an offshore account of the BCCI to receive all payments and settle dues; this violated the Foreign Exchange Management Act as it was not approved by the Reserve Bank of India. The ED also found irregularities in the BCCI’s transactions with the CSA, including in payments to various persons in South Africa during the tournament. Notices amounting to Rs 1317 crore were addressed to Mr Modi, the BCCI and the then BCCI president Shashank Manohar, secretary N Srinivasan, treasurer MP Pandove, CEO Ratnakar Shetty, IPL manager Prasanna Kannan, and chief operating officer IPL Sunder Raman.

There were alleged irregularities in payments to international sports management agency IMG (hired as consultant); in guarantees to foreign players; and in the telecast rights. In a defence submitted via Mumbai-based law firm Wadia, Ghandy & co., Mr Lalit Modi claimed that in each show-cause notice, he was charged under section 42(1) which related to vicarious liability, whereas he was not individually responsible as the BCCI took decisions collectively. He alleged that despite several requests, he was not allowed to inspect documents or the replies of other respondents.


The ED is believed to have concluded its investigations and could soon issue penalties. This may be why Mr Modi has gone ballistic via Twitter, variously targeting Messers Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel, Rajiv Shukla, Arun Jaitley, Anurag Thakur, Rakesh Maria, and dropping hints about Swiss bank chiefs, income tax commissioners, hawala operators, et al. His counsel Mehmood Abdi has accused former ministers Salman Khursheed, P Chidambaram and Shashi Tharoor of instigating the current controversy as Mr Modi had revealed late Sunanda Pushkar’s sweat equity in the Kochi IPL team, after which the family’s security was abruptly withdrawn.


Mr Modi’s angst with the Union Finance Minister goes back to his membership of a disciplinary committee (with Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia and Mr Chirayu Amin) probing whether Mr Modi indulged in “acts of individual misdemeanours”, which led to his suspension from BCCI in April 2010. Mr Modi had sought Mr Jaitley’s recusal from the committee on grounds that the latter was the first complainant against him in the IPL Kochi case.


In 2006, Mr Modi complained to then BCCI chief Sharad Pawar that Mr Jaitley had appeared as a lawyer in the Supreme Court in a case related to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, where Mr Anurag Thakur was president. By doing so, Mr Jaitley acted “against the interests of the Board” and contravened BCCI’s Rule 6.2, ‘Regulations for players, team officials, managers, umpires & administrators,’ as he was (and is) president of the Delhi & District Cricket Association. He was by default a member of the BCCI working committee and also a Member of the Rajya Sabha. This complaint figures in Mr Modi’s civil suit relating to his suspension, filed in Patiala House Courts.


This is all an unholy mess. The way out is to make all sitting MPs and MLAs resign from sports bodies immediately. Thereafter, professional sportspersons should take up the task of purging active politicians from sports bodies in toto.

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