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‘Modi offered $50m as bribe’

Adur Pradeep (With inputs from agencies)
Filed on April 15, 2010

The Indian Premier League controversy involving Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Taroor and IPL commissioner Lalit Modi took a new twist on Wednesday.

The IPL Kochi team CEO Shailandra Gaikwad alleged that Modi had offered a $50 million bribe to withdraw from the race.

“We were offered $50 million by Modi to withdraw from the Kochi team,” Gaikwad was quoted as saying by the Indian media hours after Modi insisted that there was a question mark over the new franchise’s fate.

Modi, who termed the charges as “rubbish”, asked: “Are they mad? Who will offer them Rs200 crore? I will take legal recourse.”

“I am awaiting the clippings. Once I have that, I will serve them legal notice... possibly on Thursday,” Modi was quoted as saying by agency reports.

“Today they are saying $50 million. Tomorrow they may say some different figures. Every communication and conversations, including that of Mr. Tharoor wherein the minister asked not to identify the owners, was recorded in the meeting,” he claimed.

After remaining silent for one day, Modi chose to hit back on Wednesday, saying there is still a question mark over the ownership of Kochi franchise. Gaikwad replied swiftly. In an interview to a TV channel, he said Modi desperately wanted a new IPL franchise in another part of the country instead of Kochi.

In other related developments on Wednesday, a section of the Indian media reported that Modi is associated with as many as three IPL teams through his family members and friends.

Taroor received an SMS threat while the income tax authorities have begun a probe into the Kochi team.

Unknown entity

Modi, who chose to publish information regarding Kochi team through his Twitter updates, said in Mumbai on Wednesday: “As regards all earlier franchisees we know who the owners are. They come, they attend conferences and meetings but as far as Kochi IPL is concerned we had a question mark. Even those who presented the bid documents do not know who they (owners) are.”

Modi was speaking at a press conference called to announce details of the IPL awards.

“How otherwise would I know where the money is coming from,” he asked.

“(We) will deal with Kochi once the IPL is over. I will also explain my side to the IPL governing council and we have no hidden agenda, no hidden stakes,” he said. Modi said in the case of eight teams already in the IPL, everybody knew who the shareholders were.

“It is a small issue, nevertheless an issue,” he added.

He said he would call a meeting of the governing council meeting after the end of the ongoing IPL on April 25, saying they have a lot of work.

To a question about his interest in Rajasthan Royals team, he said, “I have no hidden agenda or hidden stake.”

Modi also said the latest controversy hasn’t affected him, “No, nothing,” he said.

Tough time

Gaikwad said his team was deliberately made to go through a “tough time”.

“We are being put to an unnecessary process and the reasons are obvious. If we did not have all the papers in place how could we win the bid. It is unfair now to make us go through these problems,” Gaikwad said in New Delhi.

“We have submitted all the details such as, Pan card, passport and other professional documents in the bid. Everything was attached as per the requirements. So how come suddenly there is a doubt about the owners?” he asked.

“We were asked a lot of personal questions about some of our owners which we could not readily answer. He asked questions about when did you meet Sunanda (Pushkar) and other such irrelevant things.

“We said that whatever questions were unanswered we will mail all the details as soon as possible.

“We felt that most of the questions were planted. Before we could give all the answers he went on Twitter and said at the press conference that we did not have knowledge about all the owners,” Gaikwad said.

“We don’t want to make this a legal issue. We are here for the passion of the game. We wanted to do something for cricket.”

Modi contacts

According to media reports, Suresh Chellaram, co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals, is Modi’s wife’s brother-in-law. His step-daughter is married to the Burman family which co-owns Kings XI Punjab.

His close friends, the Moranis, bought into the Kolkata Knight Riders when the IPL was launched, according to an NDTV report.

SMS threat

A man was detained by the New Delhi police on the suspicion of sending an SMS threat to Tharoor, police sources said.

“We have picked up Manik Verma from west Delhi for questioning. He has not yet been arrested,” a police source said.

The source said the police have not received any official complaint from the minister. Earlier in the day, officials from the Tughlak Road police station went to the minister’s residence and spent about an hour there to probe the SMS threat. “We (came) to inquire SMS threats to the minister after seeing reports in the media,” a team member said.

Jacob Joseph, the officer on special duty with the minister, told reporters that Tharoor had received the SMS threat and the home ministry and police have been alerted.

Tax probe

Meanwhile, the tax administration has begun a probe into the Kochi team to ascertain if its money had been channelled illegally from tax havens abroad.

“The Directorate General of Investigation in Kochi had discussed this issue with senior officials in New Delhi. The department has ordered a probe into the issue,” a spokesperson for the Central Board of Direct Taxes said.

“This issue has now come in the public domain. So we are bound to investigate. At the moment, the probe is basically a paper-based investigation. It does not involve any formal complaint as of now,” the spokesperson said.

IPL scandal - Modi vs Tharoor

With the public showdown between Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor over the Kochi team’s stake-holding structure snowballing into a major controversy. The BCCI has decided to convene a meeting of the IPL Governing Council within 10 days to discuss and take a decision on the episode. Read More

BCCI may ‘run’ to the rescue

After witnessing some intriguing Twenty20 battles on the field, the Indian Premier League (IPL) fans have a chance to watch certain exciting off-field encounters as well. The high-profile battle between Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor and IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi took an interesting turn on Tuesday. Read More

Email: pradeep@khaleejtimes.com


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