Lalli changed contract to suit channel: CBI
Suspended Prasar Bharati (PB) CEO B S Lalli took a series of steps to favour the UK-based SIS Live for the broadcasting rights of the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG), alleges the CBI FIR. After registering an FIR on Friday, the probe agency raided the house and offices of Lalli and SIS Live as well as its Indian partner Zoom Communications.
The CBI sleuths swooped down on Lalli’s Pandara Road house and his former office in PB headquarters early on Friday. The probe agency also raided the house as well as office of of Zoom Communications executive director Wasim Dehlavi.
According to sources the probe agency has found incriminating documents during the raids, which searches went on till evening. The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry had given sanction to prosecute Lalli on Wednesday. after which the CBI registered an FIR against him and conducted the raids.
The Organising Committee (OC) of the CWG, the sources revealed, had intimated to the PB on March 26, 2007 that it would be the host broadcaster. Initially it was decided that Doordarshan would cover 10 CWG events and the coverage of seven sporting events as well as the opening and closing ceremonies would be outsourced.
The CBI alleges that the idea of in-house coverage was foreclosed without citing any reason. In September 2007, the PB issued Request for Interest (RFI) for international companies.
One UK-based company BBC (OB) quoted a figure of R52 crore for covering 12 events. A consortium of HSB and IMG submitted a quotation of R340 crore for a turnkey solution. But no further negotiations took place in this regard.
Interestingly SIS Live, later on acquired by the BBC (OB), got the contract for R246 crore. Not only that, the commercial manager of BBC (OB) Alan Bright and head of commercials Phil Anderson, who had earlier responded on behalf of the BBC (OB), also responded on behalf of the SIS Live.
According to the FIR, the HSB/IMG bid for R340 crore was for turnkey solution. For ‘coverage and production’, they had asked for R172 crore and the SIS Live was given coverage and production contract for R246 crore.
A statement issued by Zoom Communications said that the company was cooperating with the investigations. The company further stated that SIS Live had subcontracted to Zoom Communications and the use of subcontractors was expressedly contemplated in the contract agreement between PB and SIS Live.
But the FIR states that the Letter of Intent (LoI) was issued to the SIS Live on October 22, 2009 but the contract was signed on March 5, 2010. During this period PB officials made material alterations in the contract.
The draft contract had stated that the original entity would not assign or transfer any part of the contract, but it was revised to state that subcontracting of production will be allowed. The day the SIS got the contract for R246 crore, the same day it signed a deal with Zoom Communication for R177 crore.
According to the FIR, the expenditure for camera mounting (R1.76 crore), power supply cable from the broadcast compound to the venue (R96.3 lakh), lighting consultants (R22 lakh), free catering (R1.1 crore) had to be borne by the contractor but the PB had made payments for the same.
The CBI FIR also alleges that by giving the contract to SIS Live, the government exchequer may have suffered a loss R132 crore.