He may have been expelled from the BCCI for committing “acts of serious misconduct and indiscipline”, but former IPL chairman, Lalit Modi vows to hit back and expose the powers-that-be in the richest and most powerful Board in world cricket. Modi, in this exclusive interview to HT, alleges that BCCI president, N Srinivasan, was solely responsible for the alleged financial violations that took place in the conduct of the IPL in South Africa four years ago.
There was such strong opposition against you in the SGM. How do you explain that?
As I have maintained, this was all a huge conspiracy spearheaded by N Srinivasan and his buddies. They needed a fall guy, and as I was the outsider in their club, I was made the same. In that sense, the BCCI ban on me was predictable to say the least. I’m not perturbed about it.
How else would you explain the fact that I was never given a chance to present my case personally to the disciplinary committee that was the judge, jury and executioner? Under these circumstances, the tide was always against me. Srinivasan has managed to keep ‘the flock of members’ together, so much so that not one word was uttered at the SGM except to move the resolution. Life for me will go on and I will continue to fight the powers that be within the BCCI. I have no doubt in my mind that truth shall ultimately prevail. In fact, I am happy to not be sitting across or at the same table as the much-maligned facilitators of match-fixing that have brought so much ignominy and dishonour to the game of cricket that we all love.
You said you are ready for the BCCI mafia? What do you mean by that?
Patience is a strong virtue, and as I have said earlier, I will continue to fight the powers that be within the BCCI. With this ban, the BCCI members have shown where their interests lie. They are not interested in the betterment of the game, or else they would have gone after the people who are bringing the game into such disrepute.
The powers that be within BCCI feel that with this ban they can shut my mouth. As a matter of fact the ban will only act as a catalyst to spur me on. It emboldens me to go after them. They are no longer colleagues and that makes it easier to expose them systematically. Watch out, all secrets will be out soon!
You said you will expose Srinivasan. He doesn't seem to be afraid of it. Do you have something against him which will affect his career in the BCCI?
As I said before, Srinivasan has the backing of BCCI members just now. He believes he is untouchable at the moment. But let me give you a sample of just an instance of his wrongdoing and you are the judge. I distinctly remember the meeting of the BCCI on March 22, 2009 wherein it was decided to move the IPL to South Africa. BCCI President Shashank Manohar had chaired the Emergency Working Committee meeting which approved the same, and resolved that the tournament be moved and BCCI should get RBI approval for operating the bank account in South Africa. The responsibility for the same was entrusted to then secretary, Srinivasan.
The BCCI secretary then travelled to South Africa for a meeting with Cricket South Africa (CSA) along with his team. It was the BCCI secretary who decided post that meeting to contravene the Working Committee and not take due RBI approvals for the conduct of the tournament. Instead, he chose to, without the approval of the Board, not open any account in South Africa as mandated by BCCI after approval from RBI but instead go the route of asking CSA to open a bank account for the purposes of BCCI.
For this, N Srinivasan executed an agreement on behalf of BCCI with CSA on 30th March 2009, wherein one of the (terms) under the agreement was that CSA would open and operate a dedicated bank account for conducting the tournament, as if it was a BCCI account but camouflaged as CSA account.
Further, on 25 March, 2009, N Srinivasan circulated instructions to all, including myself who was not party to attending any meeting with CSA, and his team in reference to the above agreement and contravention of BCCI resolution that CSA would operate a separate bank account and make payments on behalf of the BCCI and the Board would replenish the amount as and when required and after the tournament CSA would send a final statement for settlement. The letter made it clear that the account would be monitored by BCCI and any disbursal would be made after final approvals by Srinivasan. All bills were to be forwarded to Srinivasan for final authorisation.
The payment structure was that Prasanna Kannan (also employee of India Cements Ltd.) as the Chief Finance Officer of IPL was directly reporting to N Srinivasan and would seek his approval on various invoices and payments to be made. The remittance of payment to CSA was thus done under instructions from Srinivasan, who alone was aware of how this remittance was done into a dedicated account and on what basis. The payments were made to various vendors out of this dedicated account. Srinivasan also controlled the account.
Thus, the entire violation of FEMA (Foreign Exchange Maintenance Act) as alleged by Enforcement Directorate is due to the deliberate act of avoiding the RBI framework. The circuitous route adopted by Srinivasan stood exposed when ED found out that though the account was in the name of CSA, for all effect and purposes it was operated and controlled by BCCI. This is what has come to haunt us now. This is just one instance of the wrong doing by Srinivasan. The list goes on…
A lot of times you have said Srinivasan used his authority to manipulate things in the Board in favour of CSK. How did he do that?
Until 2008 BCCI had strict rules against players, administrators and team officials having any commercial interests in any BCCI event. That was to ensure there was no conflict of interest. But with the arrival of Srinivasan on the scene, the conflict of interest proviso was ignored altogether, paving the way for Srinivasan to own Chennai Super Kings.
Like any team owner, Srinivasan too had a soft corner for CSK and his position in the BCCI helped manipulate things in favour of his team, like me being forced to allow Andrew Flintoff to don CSK colours despite the rule stating that all players needed to go back to the auction after the first three-year term. It’s a pity Srinivasan has to resort to such tactics despite the fact that CSK were a strong team and did not need any help.
You also referred to Srinivasan manipulating umpires for CSK games? Can you give details?
I certainly did. During the IPL, Srinivasan picked some umpires to be based in Chennai and officiate in the CSK matches. Does that not amount to umpire fixing/match-fixing? On hearing that he had chosen a few umpires for the CSK matches, I objected to it, and changed the umpire postings in the interest of the game.
Your critics say you have nothing to expose, or you would have done before you were banned. What’s your reaction?
Have you heard of the saying strike when the iron is hot? Well, the right time has yet to come. Like I said before, I take the blame for letting people arm-twist me into making certain decisions which were not for the good of the game. But things have taken a turn for the worse as everybody has noticed with the controversies that currently plague the IPL, like the betting and match-fixing scandals. I will not let Srinivasan destroy something I created from the ground up, and when the time is right I will come out and expose everything.
Your downfall is being attributed mainly to your arrogant style of functioning and dealing with the Board? Do you agree that this style doesn’t pay when dealing with Indian cricket?
At times my pursuit for excellence and perfection in whatever I undertake has been misconstrued as arrogance of sorts – but that was never my intention. I firmly believe that if you undertake any assignment, be it in the professional or personal sphere in life, you should give it 100%. And in that quest for excellence, I might have ruffled some people who were accustomed to a way of working. This has been my style of working and it did pay dividends. Did it not with the IPL?
Some experts attribute the arrogance to administrators getting carried away by the power they feel when part of the BCCI. In hindsight, do you feel you got carried away and do you feel Srinivasan is making the same mistakes?
There have been some mistakes in the past but there is a difference between what I was doing and the way Srinivasan is functioning now. I was doing things that were beneficial for the game, the cricketers and the BCCI, whereas it is clear what Srinivasan’s motives are in the way he has been altering the system to suit his individual needs. There is no doubt about that. It’s in front of everyone, he owns CSK, the most successful team in the IPL. That’s not a coincidence.
Things were looking difficult for Srinivasan but it now seems he has managed to escape the situation. Knowing the Indian cricket system well, what is your prediction on his future?
The only answer I have to your question is an old saying which goes something like this, “Friends (here I mean friends and allies within BCCI) are like melons. You may try fifty before you find a good one.”
The charges against Gurunath Meiyyapan will affect CSK if it is proved that he is the co-owner of the franchise. And that can only be proved by the ownership pattern in the BCCI records. Having handled all the paperwork in the IPL, is there proof of Gurunath being the co-owner in CSK franchise as per BCCI-IPL records?
Gurunath, apart from being the son-in-law of Srinivasan, has been the co-owner of India Cements. Right from the first auction he has been present through all meetings. If he is caught as part of the betting probe, his name is simply deleted from all records and he is called a cricket enthusiast – then what more can I say? Even after the Mumbai Police filed the charge-sheet against him, Srinivasan continues to claim innocence. Try to disprove this.