While the Videocon and Adani groups that lost out during the bidding for two new IPL teams in March this year have been at the centre of media attention, Income Tax authorities have begun probing details of the third unsuccessful bidder — Amanora, a Pune-based consortium of “six to seven entities,” led by real estate developers City Corporation Ltd.
Their bid documents are missing.
Sources familiar with the I-T probe into the IPL mess told Hindustan Times that though Amanora’s bid was the lowest (Rs 1,176 crore, for the Pune team), tax authorities suspect that the powers-that-be at the IPL and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had special interest in this consortium.
City Corporation Ltd is headed by Anirudha Deshpande, known as a close associate of Union Agriculture Minister and former BCCI chief Sharad Pawar.
Taxmen are also probing if Pune-based real estate tycoon Avinash Bhosle, known to be close to politicians, particularly of the NCP, BJP and the Shiv Sena, is linked in any way to the consortium.
The nature and extent of involvement of individuals is still not clear as the bid documents are missing. The IPL management has told tax officials that the documents had been returned to the bidders; however, the bidders insist they haven’t got them back.
“The I-T department will now ask the bidders to produce a copy of the documents. It has already asked Amanora and some existing franchises to present their shareholding patterns,” a source said.
Deshpande told HT that the I-T authorities had not asked him for any details yet. “We were such a small bidder. I don’t think they bother,” he said.
Asked if he was close to the Pawars, he said, “Anybody in Pune would be [close to them].” Deshpande, along with Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule and her husband Sadanand Sule were earlier part of Lavasa Corporation Ltd, the company that is developing Lavasa City, advertised as “free India’s largest hill city”, near Pune.
The Sules exited the project to build the new 25,000 acre city in 2006. Pawar’s NCP is already fighting allegations of IPL links. Supriya has said her husband “inherited” the stake he has in Multi Screen Media (which has IPL broadcast rights); Praful Patel has claimed the document he sent to Shashi Tharoor on projections of valuations of franchises was just intended to help a friend; and Patel again has defended his daughter Poorna’s role as IPL hospitality manager.
While the I-T department’s role is limited to probing unexplained or untaxed money floating around in IPL, investigations may also reveal the role of politicians who have developed large stakes in the running of IPL and BCCI.