The IPL has come under the scanner of India's income-tax department with officials visiting the league's office in Mumbai and also the office and residence of its commissioner, Lalit Modi. The activity, which is being described as an "inquiry" of a preliminary nature, comes a day after the Central Board of Direct Taxes said it had ordered an investigation of the Kochi franchise sale issue but is expected to be wider in scope.
"There is an inquiry, it is not a raid," Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, told PTI. "The I-T officials are possibly looking for the details of the tender (for the Kochi team). We will extend them all possible cooperation."
The I-T department's intervention follows several days of allegations and counter-allegations involving Rendezvous Sports World, the holding company of the Kochi franchise, the composition of its ownership and its shareholding pattern. The shareholders were named by Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, over the weekend, an action that sparked off the subsequent furore.
There was some good news for Modi in a public vote of confidence from Sharad Pawar, the former BCCI president and the ICC's president-elect. Pawar told CNN-IBNhe saw nothing wrong in Modi's seeking additional information from the Kochi consortium and did not believe the allegation that Modi had offered it a $50 million bribe.
"They [IPL commissioner and BCCI president] have every right to ask for information about the franchises," he said. "Unless and until they collect the correct information, they will not realise who are behind this [bid].
"If they decide to disclose to the media, that is for the governing council to decide." Asked whether he still backed Modi despite the recent controversy, Pawar said: "I have full faith in the entire set-up; his [Modi's] contribution is there for success in this forum. I am not ready to believe about the bribe."
The controversy also led to the Kochi franchise naming a new chief executive. Confirming the development to Cricinfo, Kailash Singhal, part of Kochi consortium, said the move was necessary because the current chief executive, Shailendra Gaikwad, had his name mentioned repeatedly in the ongoing allegations. "We did not want anyone to suffer for no fault of his," Singhal said. T Keshav, Singhal's partner in Rosy Blue Diamond Group, one of the investors in Kochi, is likely to replace Gaikwad.
One aspect of the controversy has been the role of Shashi Tharoor, a junior minister in India's federal government, who played what he called a "mentoring role" in Rendezvous's attempt to get the Kochi franchise. The shareholding pattern revealed Sunanda Pushkar, a close associate of Tharoor's, as one of the equity holders, which was seen as a conflict of interest for the minister and has put his future in the government under a cloud.
Tharoor is expected to make a statement in Parliament over the next couple of days but on Thursday he met Sonia Gandhi, the head of the Congress party to which he belongs, reportedly discussing his role in the Kochi deal. He had met other party seniors early in the day but the fact that Gandhi chose to meet him is seen as a good sign for the minister. For the record, the Congress has said the party will discuss Tharoor's case after the Prime Minister returns from a trip to the US and Brazil.
In an interview to NDTV on Wednesday, Tharoor said there was no question of him resigning. Tharoor denied that his party had left him out in the cold, and added that "resigning would mean I've given up."