Mumbai, April 26: As the Chennai Super-Kings defeated the Mumbai Indians, a nation roared with delight - not just at the result, but at the larger-than-life finale delivered once again by the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The morning after, the four-billion-dollar-and-growing baby was officially in a state of emergency. The man who created one of Indian cricket’s biggest success stories was suspended for 22 charges of financial crimes. And Lalit Modi’s reign as master and commander, or Chairman and Commissioner, of the IPL came to a rude end. The man who replaces him, Chirayu Amin, is a study in contrast to the quintessentially diva-esque Modi.
In the evening, Modi appeared on twitter, posting "Had a restful day. Been in the spa all day. Much needed rest" followed by "Thank you all for your message of support. It is really appreciated. I am still chairman of IPL. Just suspended. Wait - we have just begun. "
It’s not just the breadth of the charges (they add upto 34 pages) that are breath-taking; it’s the grisliness of the alleged violations that makes them particularly damning . Modi is accused of manipulating bids for different teams in the IPL auctions, particularly for the two teams that were sold last month. One of those teams was bought by a Kochi group which boasted of then-minister Shashi Tharoor as its mentor. The board claims that had it not intervened, the result could have been different.
The dissected criminology of Modi’s practices has also led to accusations of using relatives as fronts for his stake in two teams, and of taking giant kickbacks from an 80 million dollar commission that was part of a complicated television rights’ deal for IPL matches.
These charges and his suspension were endorsed by 12 men in two hours at the meeting of the IPL Governing Council first thing on Monday morning.
BCCI President Shashank Manohar spent close to an hour enumerating the many fronts on which Modi has violated the trust of the board. He did stress - and this could be Modi’s emergency exit route - that in 15 days, if the BCCI receives a "convincing explanation," it will drop charges against Modi. If not, an internal inquiry will start examining Modi’s financial history at the IPL.
In Manohar’s version of events, Modi stealthily followed a self-serving agenda, without sharing details or documents for critical multi-crore deals. "The chargesheet was discussed...we also asked Ratnakar Shetty to look into the records because many documents are missing from the IPL office...everyday, the income tax department is asking for them and we don’t have them."
To those of us for whom it seems odd that the governing council never once questioned Modi about his operating procedure for contracts worth eye-crossing amounts of money, Manohar offered this rebuttal. "In any public organization, the organization functions on trust. Each and every person can’t go and look into each and every document in the organization. If you are expecting all members of the Governing Council to come here from 10 am till 10 pm each day, then we don’t need the other staff."
Manohar also listed two teams - Preity Zinta’s Punjab Kings X1, and Shilpa Shetty’s Rajasthan Royals -as those whose parentage seems uncertain. Modi’s relatives are part owners in both teams. In both cases, Manohar said, the companies or people involved with the original bids had expanded, evolved or morphed into other stakeholders.
Citing the case of the Royals, he said, "We are asking Modi, how can he sign an agreement with A when the bid came from B. Modi made a statement that the entire world knows who the shareholders are but the fact is that not even the Governing Council members know about Rajasthan Royals. I did not find the names of Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra in the papers and they claim to be stakeholders."
An alarmed Shilpa Shetty later tweeted to say she is very much the team’s Brand Ambassador, and that Kundra is an owner.
40% of the Royals franchise is owned by Suresh Chellaram, Modi’s wife’s brother-in-law. The board says that if shares were transferred to Shilpa and her husband after they invested in the Royals, no transfer fee has been paid.
The case of Preity Zinta’s Punjabs X1 is equally curious. From Day One, Zinta has been the face and driving force of her team. But the paperwork shows that when the bid was placed for her franchise, she didn’t have a single share in the company she formed with other investors including Mohit Burman who is related ot Modi through marriage. The shares were apparently transferred to her after the contract for the team was signed. Again, no transfer fee was paid.
Next on Manohar’s hit-list: the assignation of the IPL’s internet rights to Mohit Burman’s brother, Gaurav Burman -the deal will be scanned in detail, he said.
At the meeting, after the board formally approved Modi’s suspension, came the issue of who will replace him. Manhoar was reportedly asked to oblige. He refused on the grounds that the position needed someone attuned to Marketing and Finance. Enter Chirayu Amin. (Read: Who is Chirayu Amin?)
The top man at Baroda-based pharmaceutical group Alembic Limited, Amin’s cricketing credentials include his current positions as the Vice President (West) of the BCCI, and the President of the Baroda Cricket Association. He entered the stormy world of cricket administration eight years ago, and has kept a low profile. That, more than any of his other qualifications, may be what resonated most with those trying to rehash IPL without its original Frankenstein.
For IPL 4, Manohar said a committee of former cricketers Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi will decide the modalities.
By suspending Modi last night, the BCCI ensured that he would not be able to attend this morning’s meeting. Manohar claims that "As the tournament was on, we didn’t want tournament to be disrupted or create any disturbance for tournament."
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.
Speaking to media 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.