Monday, April 26, 2010

IPL: Lalit Modi out, Chirayu Amin takes over

Two hours, 12 men - that's what it took to formally endorse the decision to suspend Lalit Modi as Chairman and Commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The interim chief of the IPL is Chirayu Amin.

The Governing Council of the IPL met this morning in Mumbai to discuss the 22 charges of impropriety that were served last night, via email, to Modi, seconds after the Chennai Super-Kings won IPL3. (Read: 22 charges of financial crimes against Modi)

Modi stands accused, in a 34-page notice, of allegedly consistent venality - including accepting a multi-million dollar kickback while assigning the telecast rights for IPL matches, and attempting to rig the bids for the two new IPL teams that were auctioned last month. (Watch: IPL saga - Rise and fall of Lalit Modi)

By suspending Modi last night, the BCCI ensured that he would not be able to attend this morning's meeting. The decision came after Modi added yet another twist to the high-drama IPL tale, stating, on twitter, that he would chair the Governing Council meeting. Modi had earlier said he would not attend the meeting. (Read: BCCI president explains Modi's suspension)

The only members of the governing council who were not at Monday's meeting were Modi, politician Farooq Abdullah, who said he needs to be in Parliament.

Speaking to NDTV immediately after his suspension last night, Modi said, "Are they so scared of me attending the meeting? Are they so scared of the truth?" Modi has 15 days to respond to the 34-page chargesheet. At the closing ceremony for IPL 3 last night, Modi channeled his quintessential bravado to assert that he is the undisputed leader of the IPL and that no financial misdeeds were committed. Referring to himself as "Captain of the team", he said that all deals had included the approval of the Governing Council. (Modi to NDTV: Are they afraid of the truth?) | (Read: Text of Modi's speech after IPL final)

The members of that governing council don't quite see it that way. Its world view suggests that Modi functioned as a lone ranger, striking deals that benefited largely himself. For example, the council says it was not privy to Modi's complicated negotiation of the telecast rights for IPL matches for which an 80 million dollar "facilitation fee" or commission was paid by Multi-Screen Media (MSM) to World Sports Group (WSG), which held the global broadcast rights. Mod, who brokered that deal, is accused by the BCCI of siphoning off a part of this money. (Both MSM and WSG have emphasized that the commission was a part of their official contract, and that no financial rules were broken. Income tax officials investigating the deal believe that at the very least, 140 crores in tax is due for that giant commission).

The BCCI also makes the equally damaging accusation that Modi tried to rig the bids for the two franchises that were sold last month. He was stopped, they say, by BCCI members.

The BCCI is now conducting an internal inquiry against Modi.

What remains a gray area is why the BCCI has waited so long to pin Modi down, if it was aware all along of at least some of the grotesqueries he was committing. Trying to rig an auction of teams is, by any standards, a colossal no-no. So why did the BCCI wait to out him?

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