Government says all aspects of IPL under scrutiny
A day after the resignation of Indian minister Shashi Tharoor, the IPL and the BCCI remain at the centre of a growing political and financial controversy that echoed in the national Parliament. Amid a growing call for closer regulation of cricket in India, and reports of various government agencies investigating the IPL's financial transactions in a coordinated operation, the BCCI has rescheduled its working committee meeting to May 2.
In Parliament the finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, made a brief intervention in a heated debate on the IPL controversy to say that the "concerned department" - which is probably the income-tax department - was already looking into the IPL's funding. "Some members raised the issue of the IPL and wanted to have the probe in all its aspects. In fact, I want to assure them that all aspects of the IPL, including the source of funding, how they have been invested, will be looked into," Mukherjee said.
Media reports have suggested that the Corporate Affairs ministry is also planning, pending the cabinet's approval, an investigation of the manner in which the IPL franchises are run. This ministry's involvement will be mandated given that there are several listed companies among the IPL franchise owners; it is also expected to look at the mechanism of the Kochi deal.
Three years since its inception, the IPL has been a money-spinner on many counts. The first set of eight franchises were sold in a high-profile auction that earned $700 million. Those numbers were trumped by the two new franchises added this year, that fetched over $700 million between them. Additionally, the BCCI signed a contract worth $1.63 billion for the sale of TV rights, in 2009. The league was recently valued at a mind-boggling $4.13 billion. All components that add up to this figure are now set to come under the scanner.
CNN-IBN, quoting Government sources, reported that the Revenue Secretary and Enforcement Directorate will be briefing Income Tax officials on Monday on how to speed up investigations. The outcry against the IPL came on a day a leading financial daily published a report leveling allegations against Modi, a report Modi has denied.
The speed of the developments suggests that the BCCI could have taken a decision - or be presented with a fait accompli - before it meets on May 2. That meeting will be preceded by one of the IPL's governing council, where the first moves will be taken to set the house in order.
"The working committee meeting has been postponed because all things have to be discussed in the governing council meeting first," Rajiv Shukla, the BCCI's media and finance committee chairman, told PTI. "There is no point in having a working committee meeting before that. All the allegations and other issues will be discussed in the governing council, the date for that meeting will be announced soon."
Modi's fate could be decided by his mentor Sharad Pawar, nominally the head of the Mumbai Cricket Association but whose influence in the game extends beyond even his other avatar as the ICC's president-elect. When contacted by Cricinfo, Pawar said he was part of the ICC and could not comment on the BCCI or the domestic league. When it was put to him that he had been the BCCI president when the IPL was set up, Pawar said: "That was three years ago, now I'm with the ICC."
The BCCI's first official response to the controversy, which broke last weekend when Lalit Modi disclosed the details of the Kochi franchise ownership, was a statement on April 13 that a meeting of the IPL Governing Council would be convened "within 10 days to discuss all the issues and take a decision". It is now clear that deadline will not be met, though no explanation has been given for the delay.
The controversy was triggered by an update on Lalit Modi's twitter account that questioned the ownership structure of the Kochi consortium, particularly the nature of equity owned by Sunanda Pushkar, who is a friend of Shashi Tharoor, a cabinet minister in the Indian government. Pushkar has since given up her stake in the franchise, while Tharoor was forced to resign from his office, over allegations of conflict of interest in his mentoring of the consortium.
One fallout of Modi's Twitter revelation was to swing the spotlight on the IPL's financial dealings, and on Sunday the BCCI said it had received a summons from the income-tax department to furnish complete details of all eight original Indian Premier League franchises, who were successful bidders for the city-based teams in January 2008, on April 23. The taxmen have already carried out inspections of the IPL's offices and Modi's residence in Mumbai and also the Kings XI Punjab franchise office in Mohali.
"Day before yesterday they had asked for details only about the two new franchises - their shareholding patterns, addresses, player auction and bidding process. Now they want us to furnish all the details about the eight other franchises too," the BCCI's chief administrative officer, Ratnakar Shetty had said.