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The controversy over the IPL Kochi franchise has become more murky with the franchise CEO alleging that Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, offered them $50 million to "quit the game and get out" soon after their successful bid for it. Modi has denied the charge and said he could not have offered the money because he was not a bidder in the first place.
The allegation was made on several Indian television channels by Satyajit Gaekwad, CEO of Rendezvous Sports World, the owners of the Kochi franchise. "One week after the bid was declared in favour of the Kochi team, the investor from Rendezvous Shailendra [Gaekwad] was called by Mr Modi and told that you would be given $50 million if you just quit the game and get out," Gaekwad told CNN-IBN.
"That is where the investors thought that since they had won the bid and had worked hard for the last six-seven months to get this bid, they did not agree," Gaekwad, a former Congress MP from Vadodara, said. "That's the reason there were some delaying tactics taking place and a confusion created by Mr. Lalit Modi that he didn't know who the owner was. In that case, if it was so, why would we have won the bid? That's the million-dollar question Modi needs to answer."
He said he was not among those who were present when the offer was made. "But Shailendra was among the people called there and that is where he told the team management… they discussed what happened and they decided collectively, Nothing doing, we have won the bid and we will go ahead [with it]."
Modi told the channel the allegations were completely false. "I can't bribe somebody to give me the franchise because I am not a bidder in the first place," he said. "There is no reason for me to give them the bribe because automatically, it would lead to the cancellation of the tender and it would lead to a new tender. So I don't know where they are coming up with this imaginative figure."
Rendezvous won the bid for the Kochi franchise through the auction on March 21, after it was deferred by two weeks at the insistence of the BCCI over exorbitant financial clauses. However, the deal has become a subject of controversy with questions raised over the ownership. The issue snowballed last week; the deal was finally signed on Saturday night but the next day Modi made public the franchise's ownership structure on his Twitter feed. This sparked off a complaint from the franchise owners to the BCCI, following which the board president, Shashank Manohar, wrote a letter to Modi pulling him up for his action.
In a related development, tax officials said they had initiated an investigation of the Kochi franchise's fundings.
"The Directorate General of Investigation in Kochi had discussed this issue with senior officials in New Delhi yesterday and the department has ordered a probe into the issue," a spokesperson for the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said in New Delhi on Wednesday. "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."