A Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court issued a letter of request on Wednesday to execute a non-bailable warrant against former IPL chairman Lalit Modi, who is in the UK, and extradite him under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had requested the court to issue the letter to a competent court in the UK to bring Modi back to India, and to investigate him in an IPL-related case.
The case pertains to the deal for media rights during the IPL seasons where Modi is alleged to have laundered around Rs425 crore.
Despite the letter, ED could still face legal hurdles similar to those it is facing to execute the non-bailable warrant against liquor baron Vijay Mallya. In Mallya’s case, the Ministry of Home Affairs had informed ED that it does not have powers to execute a non-bailable warrant to arresting him.
This despite the fact that Article 11 of the India-UK MLAT provides for transfer of persons, including those in custody, for the purpose of assisting in investigations or giving evidence in ongoing proceedings.
The MEA, on its website, states that, ‘The Ministry of Home Affairs does not undertake service of non-bailable warrants of arrest. The service of non-bailable arrest warrants amounts to the extradition of the individual. Requests for extradition are based on legal principles and procedures contained in Extradition Treaties negotiated with the foreign country concerned. Such requests are to be forwarded in the prescribed format to the Ministry of External Affairs.’
But this particular legal hurdle could have been solved after ED took legal opinion on who would execute the non-bailable warrant. “We will present the warrant to MHA, which will then be forwarded to MEA,” said a top ED officer, requesting anonymity.
On Tuesday, ED’s advocate Hiten Venegavkar had argued before the court on legal provisions under the PMLA Act for procedure of extradition. Venegavkar also submitted that the agency had tried every way possible to execute the warrants issued by the court, but he has not replied. “We need his presence to question him and seek clarification on several aspects in the probe. For this we have to initiate the process,” Venegaokar had contended.
In the application filed last week, ED stated that Modi had cheated the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) by allotting free commercial time of 150 seconds to a company named Pioneer Digadys, owned by Kunal Das Gupta. ED goes on to state that Modi had also cheated BCCI in the execution of Securities Facilities Agreement with a company named Visual Impact, which was handpicked by Modi himself, to supply vans mounted with X-Ray scanners stationed at IPL playgrounds.
The agency has alleged that Modi, as IPL chairman, had entered into separate agreements with two companies Multi Screen Media (Singapore) Ltd and World Sports Group (WSG) for broadcasting media rights.
However, there were discrepancies in connection with awarding broadcast media rights for IPL and Modi is alleged to have received monetary gains from this deal. ED alleged that the documents related to the alleged violation are with these companies in Singapore and Mauritius.
It is alleged that Modi had after the first season of IPL terminated contract with MSM alleging several breaches. Later a fresh contract was signed with WSG. According to ED, the agreement with MSM was for Rs1,105 crore for broadcasting rights for five years while an agreement with WSGM, WSG’s Mauritius entity, was for Rs4791.83 crore for nine years.
The agency had alleged that though WSG was not a broadcasting company and they had no experience the contract was given to them. ED further alleged that ‘in term of the said agreement WSG was required to pay BCCI Rs112.5 crore on signing of the agreement dated March 15, 2009 and further bank guarantee on a rolling basis to guarantee the rights fee for each season on an ongoing basis. First such guarantee for season of 2009 for Rs335 crore was to be delivered on or before seven working days after the signing of the agreement.’ However, the agency alleged that Modi had given several extensions to the company to comply with terms.
Meanwhile, MSM had moved the Bombay high court challenging the termination of the contract by BCCI. The agency alleged that after the high court verdict a fresh contract was signed between BCCI and MSM, BCCI and WSG and MSM and WSG. According to the contract, MSM was required to pay Rs425 crore to WSG towards facilitation services. The agency had been investigating whether payment of Rs425 crore facilitation fees by MSM Singapore to WSG Mauritius was made illegally.