Indian Premier League April 16, 2010

Nothing to hide, Modi says after tax operation

Cricinfo staff

The IPL's third season continues to be dominated by events off the field, with income-tax officials conducting an eight-hour operation - ending at 3 a.m. on Friday - in the league's offices and the residence of Lalit Modi, its commissioner, and a team also visiting the office of the Kings XI Punjab in Mohali. In the Indian Parliament, Shashi Tharoor, the junior foreign affairs minister, made a statement - it was tabled after Opposition members prevented him from speaking - defending his role in the Kochi franchise auction bid and denying any conflict of interest.

Later on Friday, the IPL top brass - which includes most top BCCI officials - gathered in the northern town of Dharamsala for a league match and is reported to have held informal discussions on the situation. There has been speculation over Modi's future role in the IPL, with some reports suggesting a senior board official could be made co-chairman of the league, but there was no official word on this.

Ironically, while the Kings XI Punjab was playing host in Dharamshala, its offices at the Punjab Cricket Association - of which Modi is a vice-president - in Mohali were paid a visit by income-tax officials.

It appeared a continuation of Thursday's exercise, which began simultaneously at the IPL office in the BCCI headquarters, Modi's own office in another part of town - where he was - and his suite of rooms at a luxury hotel.

Modi emerged in the early hours of Friday and spoke briefly to reporters. "They have taken documentation in regard to the bidding, I am sure they will be satisfied with the documents they have got," Modi said. "If they are not satisfied, we will provide them with more information. We are a public body, we have nothing to hide.

"They were given documentation details, they verified the documents and went through the entire process of bidding. The questioning was over in a few minutes, but it took them longer as they had to go through the documents."

Modi said the officials saw the documents related to bidding by the new franchisees, owned by Sahara and the Kochi consortium, as well as those related to other IPL franchises.

In his statement to the Lok Sabha, Tharoor repeated his stand - that he had acted in good faith as an MP from Kerala and that he had not gained financially from the deal.

"I have neither benefited nor received a single rupee from my association with the consortium," Tharoor said, reading out his statement to reporters in front of Parliament House. ""This allegation is particularly wounding because I've had a three-decade career in public service and those who know me are aware that money has never been a motivating factor.

"My role in mentoring was within the bounds of appropriate conduct of an MP and a minister....there was no misuse of my official position or ministry...my official position gave me no advantage. It was irrelevant to the bid."

The allegations involving Tharoor point to his close relationship with Sunanda Pushkar, a marketing professional who has been given a 4.7 per cent stake in the consortium as sweat equity. The allegation is that she is a front for Tharoor, a charge the minister has consistently denied. "Whatever money that accrues by way of sweat equity is for their work in the future and is not connected to me," he said, adding that he perceived a gender bias to be against this allegation.