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Tax probe on IPL, franchises could extend to other cities

delhi Updated: Apr 16, 2010 20:09 IST

After a visit to the Mumbai offices of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the tax administration proposes similar inspection visits in other cities as well to ascertain the source of funds of various IPL franchises, officials said on Friday.

"This will be an ongoing process. We may be conducting investigations in other cities as well. But let me also add - these are not raids, but document-based investigation," a top official in the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) told IANS in the national capital.

Since Thursday evening, officials of the income tax department not only examined various documents and records at the office of IPL, but also questioned its commissioner Lalit K Modi.

The operation, described as a routine inquiry, went on till around 2.30 am early Friday.

According to top officials, the operation in Mumbai was primarily to establish that the source of money involved in the cricketing extravaganza was "clean" with no loss to the exchequer on account of evasion.

Besides quizzing Modi extensively on these and related aspects, the IT sleuths also inspected certain documents, official records, agreements and other data pertaining to the IPL.

However, there has been no "seizure" of any kind from Modi or the IPL offices, an official said.

The official declined to comment on whether Modi or any other IPL official is likely to be quizzed again, or if the IT department would carry out further inspection of records in Mumbai.

The tax administration had already started a specific probe into the Kochi franchise of IPL, embroiled in a major controversy over the ownership issue, to ascertain if its money had been channelled illegally from tax havens abroad.

The tax probe followed a political row since last week after allegations that Sunanda Pushkar, a shareholder in the Kochi IPL franchise and a friend of Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, received free equity in it.

Officials said their main concern was, however, black money abroad and tax evasion. They added that just as they try to prevent such ill-gotten funds from going out of the country, they also try to probe if it is channelled back into the country illegally.

The franchise for the Kochi team, which will play from the fourth edition of the IPL Twenty20 cricket extravaganza, was won in an auction last month by a firm called Rendezvous Sports for over $330 million.

Subroto Roy's Sahara group bagged the franchise for the Pune team. The two teams are scheduled to join eight other teams from the next edition of the tournament.

These are: Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Deccan Chargers, Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab.

Modi has so far maintained that there was a question mark over the ownership of the Kochi IPL franchise since the owners themselves did not know some of the people involved with it.

"With regards to the eight franchises, we know about all the stakeholders. But there are still some doubts over the ownership of the Kochi franchise. Even the people who signed the tender documents don't know who they are," Modi had said.