In a sensational twist to the whole Indian Premier League saga, Lalit Modi, the suspended IPL chairman, has accused BCCI president Shashank Manohar of fabricating evidence, lying, favouring certain teams under pressure from “a Cabinet Minister”, putting pressure on corporates to go with what he wanted --- almost eerily similar to some of the allegations against Modi himself --- and asked Manohar to remove himself from the panel that will judge whether Modi’s suspension from all BCCI and IPL posts stands or not.
In what is an all-out frontal attack on the Indian cricket board’s two most powerful men, he has made even stronger accusations against BCCI secretary N Srinivasan, and accused him of a “brazen” misuse of his power as secretary to “confer benefit” on the Chennai Super Kings (owned by India Cements, the company where Srinivasan is managing director). He has asked that Srinivasan be issued an immediate showcause notice and “be suspended” pending investigation.
In an 14-page letter to Manohar on Tuesday (May 25), a copy of which is with Hindustan Times, Modi has stated: “The allegation that I tried to rig the bidding in favour of two bidders, namely Adani’s and Videocon has caused me much anguish… I had kept my peace in the larger interest of the Board but now that such an allegation has been made I am constrained to put the following facts on record…”
His reference is to the first auction for two new IPL teams on March 7 this year. It was cancelled by Manohar and the IPL's Governing Council because of alleged 'irregularities' by Modi in the bid process. A fresh tender was issued. The bid was ultimately won by the Sahara Group (for Pune) and a consortium of promoters led by Rendezvous Sports World (for Kochi).
Modi's letter continues: “After the deadline for submitting bids, late in the evening and into the night of 5th March 2010 and in the morning of 6th March 2010, I received several calls from (then junior External Affairs minister) Mr Shashi Tharoor and his Secretary Mr Jacob, informing me that a third bid (“Kochi Bid”) was coming from Delhi and requesting that I accept the same. I informed him that the deadline for submission of bids had expired at 5 pm on 5th March 2010.... Mr Tharoor told me that he would take up this matter with the (BCCI) President…”
What Modi says next puts a whole new spin on last month's Kochigate controversy, because he basically states that Manohar, under pressure from Tharoor, tried to force him to accept the Kochi bid and when that failed, got the entire bid process cancelled. He writes: “While you and I were sitting together at the Four Seasons Hotel, at about 7 pm on 6th March 2010, a representative of the Kochi Franchise came with the Kochi bid and sought to hand it over to me. I declined to accept the same, saying it was beyond time. You however asked me to accept the bid. You advised me to anti time the bid to 12 noon for 6th March 2010.”
And then, here's the explosive part. Modi spares no punches: “You seemed to be under extreme pressure to ensure that the late bid be included in the bidding process. Since you failed to ensure that the bid could not be included you then decided to ensure that the bid process itself is cancelled.”
“…I appreciate that due to involvement of a Cabinet Minister you had to do things which knowing you I believe you would not do in the normal course.” Modi states that after the incident, Manohar told him that he would “persuade the governing council” that the bids had to be cancelled and told him to inform the lawyers of both the BCCI and the International Management Group, the event organisers, to prepare fresh bid documents.
“Then you started calling various people from my phone asking them to get letters of objection from different corporate entities objecting on the different clauses relating to criterion of $1 billion and bank guarantee,” writes Modi. Manohar, unusually in this time and age, doesn't generally carry a cell phone nor does he have an email account (he uses his wife's email address to receive mail).
Modi then says that these letters (addressed to Manohar) were sent to his own email account and were used by Manohar the next day in the Governing Council to cancel the bidding process. “…you relied on these letters to persuade the Governing Council to cancel the bid --- inter alia pointing out that there had been complaints about the excessive unreasonable and disproportionate bid conditions.”
Modi has also said that Manohar was keeping daily tracking the TV rights deal with Sony-Multi Screen Media and was well aware of the deal with the World Sport Group, Mauritius — the company alleged to have accepted an $80m (Rs 360cr) facilitation fee to transfer broadcasting rights from themselves to MSM. Modi calls Manohar's professed ignorance of the deal “astonishing”.
“Hence,” he adds, “to ensure that correct position of facts, your cross-examination in the matter is necessary.”... While part a of Modi's letter is a no-holds-barred attack on Manohar, the second part deals with Srinivasan, the BCCI secretary. Modi has asked that Srinivasan be “barred and totally excluded” from being part of the proceedings relating to his showcause notice.
"The Honorary Secretary has been instrumental in sponsoring complaints against me - I would like to cross-examine him in the present enquiry. His participation would tantamount to him being a judge in his own cause.” He has accused Srinivasan of “misusing his position” as BCCI Secretary to “confer wrongful benefit to his team (Chennai Super Kings) at the cost and expense of other teams and the BCCI”.
One of the accusations Modi makes is saying Srinivasan attempted what amounts to “umpire/match-fixing” by trying to get umpires from Chennai/Tamil Nadu to officiate in matches that featured the Super Kings and there's email evidence of the same. In what he dubs “a clear and brazen use of power” he has accused Srinivasan of trying to push a proposal that will allow existing teams to retain seven players (three foreign and four Indian), in order to benefit his team.
And then there's this, from a previous time, when Srinivasan was BCCI treasurer: “The Honorary Secretary allowed a Bank Guarantee given by Zee, in the sum of US $.60m (Rs 276cr) to lapse despite ZEE being in breach of its obligations. This was done to cause wrongful loss to the Board and wrongful gain to ZEE… When I raised this, the response given was that he forgot about this…” Modi, who has copied all members of the IPL's Governing Council on the letter, has asked that an independent panel (preferably including eminent judges) be appointed to judge him in “fairness”. Whether or not they agree, we'll know very soon.