Modi's defence: BCCI in on IPL deals
For the fortnight following Lalit Modi's dramatic just-after-midnight suspension from the post of Indian Premier League chairman on April 26, everyone from the tax authorities to the media, from irate bloggers to unnamed "sources" in the Enforcement Directorate, speculated on who really owned the IPL teams.
According to the Indian cricket board (BCCI), only one man (Modi) had foreknowledge of the gory details and he wasn't talking. However, according to Modi's reply to the first showcause notice issued by the BCCI, every detail was known to the BCCI-IPL brass and they had signed off on ownership details, including those pertaining to change of ownership.
Modi's 156-page, triple-spaced reply 10 days ago, to the BCCI's 35-page showcause notice contains detailed minutes of Governing Council meetings and documents he says have been signed off on by top IPL and BCCI officials.
It also has one very important annexure — the 'secret' ownership details of teams, a copy of which is with the Hindustan Times.
The bulwark of Modi's defence is illustrations, anecdotes and incidents supported by detailed documentation, which Modi's camp says it will implicate senior BCCI-IPL officials and damage their credibility. Modi's camp insists that the fact that BCCI is yet to respond shows that it has something to hide.
BCCI officials were unwilling to comment till Modi replies by May 31 to the second showcause notice issued to him. However, a source said that the BCCI believed Modi's reply to be "weak".
"He has concentrated on the charge of proxy ownership of three teams, which, in any case, is up to the ED to prove. Apart from that, he has nothing of substance regarding the $80m facilitation fee, the arm-twisting tactics and threats used by him to intimidate franchises or the other deals entered into by him."
HT has learnt in addition to the '11,000-odd supporting documents' that are supposed to show that Modi was neither "taking unilateral decisions" nor keeping other officials "in the dark about deals on behalf of the IPL", he has directly taken on N Srinivasan in his reply.
He has reportedly stated Srinivasan is in serious conflict of interest because of his position in India Cements — therefore being "chief promoter of Chennai Super Kings" — and being BCCI secretary (and part of the IPL decision-making process).
Interestingly, the only team for which Modi has not provided ownership details is Chennai Super Kings.
"He is free to make whatever charges he wants, but Srinivasan is not being charged here," said a source.
"Plus, of the 9,000 documents, about 8,000 come from AC Muthiah's petition (former BCCI president who has petitioned the Supreme Court against the 'conflict of interest' specifically in Srinivasan's case), all the franchise papers and the tender documents. Of the reply itself, if you make it single-spaced, it will be only 50 pages instead of 150."
Modi though, has made his point-by-point rebuttal to the BCCI's chargesheet.
For instance, in response to the Board saying it was unaware of the team's shareholding pattern and the fact that Modi's family members were shareholders, he has affixed a newspaper report from May 11, 2008 quoting IPL vice-chairman Niranjan Shah where he defends Modi's brother-in-law partly owning Rajasthan Royals.
Shah is quoted as saying there is no conflict of interest.
He also countered the BCCI's claim that the IPL governing council meeting was legal.
He attached a December 2009 newspaper report in which Manohar is saying: "Lalit is appointed by the general body till 2012. There is no reason, power or authority upon us to remove Lalit. There could be differences in issues between the board members, but that does not make them enemies."
There's lots more. Meanwhile, in a game of brinkmanship unlike any other, Modi's high-powered team of lawyers, including Harish Salve, Ram Jethmalani, Tony Jethmalani, Amit Desai, Swadeep Hora, Venkatesh Dhond, Harish Salve, Shailesh Mendon and Mehmood Abdi, are collecting and collating ammunition to fortify his second reply.
But if the BCCI's frazzled, no one's showing it.