India news November 11, 2015

BCCI sets up two-man panel to probe alleged snooping

Shashank Manohar (L) had sought an explanation from the previous BCCI regime over payments to the tune of mn made to an investigative agency in 2014 © AFP

The BCCI has constituted a two-man committee comprising Ajay Shirke and G Ganga Raju to investigate the payment of about $900,000 made by the previous administration to an overseas investigating agency in 2014 when Shivlal Yadav was the interim board president.

The issue was highlighted at the BCCI annual general meeting in Mumbai on Monday by senior members, who asked the board to investigate the transaction which is understood to have been made to an agency based in East Asia.

It is understood that Niranjan Shah, the president of the Saurashtra Cricket Association, raised the issue during the AGM. The members were then made aware of the case of an overseas agency being appointed in 2014 when former India offspinner Yadav replaced N Srinivasan as the BCCI head after the latter was barred by Supreme Court from occupying the chair till the 2013 IPL corruption case was closed.

"There is a payment that has been made to an agency. We have to find out what is this payment, where it has been made, to whom it has been made, for what purpose it has been made, who sanctioned it, who approved it," Shirke told ESPNcricinfo.

Ganga Raju said the panel would "go deep" to unearth the exact reasons behind hiring the investigating agency. "The person who has issued the cheque has to say why he has issued the cheque. Whether he has given it for a valid purpose or not will be looked into. Was the permission of the secretary (Patel) and president (Yadav) taken or not? In what way was the IT company connected with the BCCI? If the money has gone from BCCI then we need to know what purpose it was given for and for what tasks fulfilled. We are going to go deep into it and report it back to the BCCI," Gangaraju said.

Although Shah did not specify any alleged motive, some members suspect that the agency might have hacked into the private communication channels (e-mails, mobile phones) of certain members of the present BCCI administration under Shashank Manohar.

Shirke said it would be inappropriate for him or the BCCI to speculate about whether the agency was involved in snooping. "It is not proper unless it is conclusively proved. We will find out what that agency was hired for: whether there is any contract, whether they were deliverables and if they were delivered, and to whom they were delivered."

According to Shirke even before this AGM Shah and some other members had raised the issue in a letter to BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur, asking him to look into the matter. Thakur, it is learned, then sent a letter asking his predecessor Sanjay Patel (BCCI secretary und Srinivasan and Yadav) to respond immediately. Despite two or three reminders Patel did not get back to Thakur. "Thakur told the members on Monday he had written to both Yadav as well as Thakur but neither responded," Shirke said. Manohar then intervened and decided to appoint the two-member committee.

When contacted by this reporter, Patel cut the call after saying he was out of station. Yadav could not be reached. But in May Yadav had admitted receiving the letter from Thakur. "I have received a mail from Anurag seeking details about the payment to a UK-based IT company and I have written back to him saying I am not aware of any such payment. During my tenure, the payment was not brought to my notice, nor was I aware of it. I have asked Sanjay [Patel] if any such payment was made at all. I have no further information on this," Yadav had told Mumbai Mirror in May.

According to a senior board official, members were told that the main reason for appointing the agency was to safeguard BCCI's IT infrastructure considering official e-mails were being leaked. "That was a time when Lalit Modi was revealing internal communication of the BCCI on his social accounts. It was to protect BCCI's communication," the official said.

(With inputs from Arun Venugopal)

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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