Tighter regulatory control likely on IPL

The Finance Ministry on its part has launched a multi-pronged probe into the sources and the routes that huge sums of money that has been funnelled into the popular T20 competition.

After sacking Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor for his alleged misuse of official position to back the consortium that won the bid for the Kochi IPL team, the Congress top brass appeared keen to get to the bottom of what caused the first major embarrassment to the UPA government in its second tenure.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday told Lok Sabha that the government had already started an investigation into the sources and routes of the money being poured into IPL. He also assured the House that “appropriate action as per law” would be taken if any wrongdoing was found. “The guilty and wrong-doers will not be spared,” he assured the Lower House.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi is understood to have asked Mukherjee to personally monitor the probe. But a section of the Congress’s top leadership is worried over its possible consequences on the UPA, as not only Tharoor but some other high-profile party leaders and its allies in the ruling coalition, including a couple of Cabinet ministers, are also believed to have high stakes some of the IPL teams.

“This is going to be difficult as top and middle-level politicians as well as high-profile non-political people are involved in it. But we need to do at least some sort of clean-up operation,” a senior Congress leader said. He, however, quickly added that the party would have to tread cautiously to minimise the political risk involved with the probe.

Sources said while the Income Tax (I-T) department had already launched an enquiry, conducted raids on IPL offices in Mumbai and even questioned its commissioner Lalit Modi, other Finance Ministry agencies would also be involved in the investigations soon.
The probe will try to unearth if any of the franchises or officials on the competition’s organising body were involved in any possible tax evasion and violation of rules. The Central Economic Intelligence Bureau will coordinate the probes by multiple agencies.

The government suspects that the IPL was possibly being used for laundering black money of dubious origin. A preliminary probe fuelled suspicion that more than one or more IPL teams had possibly received funding routed through tax havens in Mauritius, the Bahamas, Macau and the Cayman Islands.

In fact, it was on the basis of a report compiled by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), with inputs from the I-T department, that the Congress top brass on Sunday decided to ask Tharoor to resign.

The IB report had convinced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other top leaders of the party that Tharoor’s explanation on his “mentoring” role to Rendezvous Sports World-led consortium, which had won the Kochi IPL bid, was not enough. The report also indicated that a more comprehensive probe into the shady flow of money into the IPL was necessary.

‘No ban on IPL’
The Congress on Monday, however, rubbished the Opposition’s demands for banning or nationalising the IPL. “What the government needs to do is to tighten the regulatory control by strictly enforcing the existing laws,” said a senior Congress MP.

Meanwhile, Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid ruled out any suo motu action by his ministry to probe the alleged violations by the IPL, the Rendezvous Sports World and other franchises. He said it was for the regulators like Registrar of Companies to take a call and ask for any action, if necessary.

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