The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has sought legal assistance from Singapore and Mauritius to take forward its probe in the alleged financial irregularities in the Indian Premier League tournament (IPL) and its former chairman Lalit Modi.
Officials said the agency has initiated the "legal procedures" to obtain from a court two Letters Rogatories (overseas judicial requests) to be sent to the two countries as part of its probe in the alleged laundering of funds in awarding media rights of the money spinning cricket tournament in 2009.
An ED team from its Mumbai zonal office has also been sent to Singapore but officials indicated they are part of an investigating team probing another case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
However, it is understood, the team could gather some important leads in connection with this deal case where the ED has recently showcaused, under foreign exchange violation laws, Modi and 13 other BCCI-Indian Premier League (IPL) officials and other private entities.
The two accused companies in this case are based in either country and hence an LR is aimed to help ED obtain more details about their transactions and international financial deals vis-a-vis IPL.
The money laundering case pertains to a compliant filed by former BCCI chief N Srinivasan in the same deal with Chennai police in 2010 against Modi and others charging them with alleged embezzlement of funds and cheating the cricketing body in the awarding of telecast rights.
The ED registered its own criminal case under PMLA early this year and later carried out searches in Gurgaon and Delhi to probe this deal which it suspects generated tainted funds.
Agency sources have earlier indicated that this being the only criminal case against the IPL-BCCI and Modi, it is expected that based on the positive progress of this probe, ED sleuths may further seek to notify an Interpol Red Corner notice against the former IPL Chairman to make him join investigations after deporting him from his present address in the United Kingdom.
Modi is currently embroiled in a controversy for obtaining travel benefits through External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and for his similar dealings with Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
The ED, in its showcause issued in February this year under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) in this case, has charged Modi of sending "fraud" emails and being a suspect beneficiary of Rs 125 crore illegal funds in connection with its Rs 425 crore forex violations probe for granting media rights of the T-20 tournament in 2009 by BCCI.
The central probe agency, after completing its six-year-old FEMA probe in the case, had slapped a show-cause notice against 14 individuals and entities which includes Modi, Srinivasan, IPL COO Sundar Raman, IMG Vice President and BCCI- IPL legal advisor Paul Manning, officials of the World Sports Group (Mauritius), Multi-Screen Media Satellite (Singapore) and other company executives for prima facie "contravening" the provisions of the FEMA in executing this deal.
The case is under adjudication at present and is one of the important ones amongst the two dozen hawala and money laundering instances that the ED is probing with regard to the conduct of various editions of the IPL.
The deal dates back to 2008 when the BCCI awarded media rights to WSG for 10 years on payment of USD 918 million. In the same year, WSG also entered into a deal with MSM to make Sony the official broadcaster. The contract was replaced a year later with a nine-year deal where Multi Screen paid USD 1.63 billion.
The ED stepped in this case in 2009 to investigate allegations that payment of Rs 425 crore facilitation fee by MSM Singapore to WSG Mauritius was made in an alleged unauthorised manner which led to the creation of alleged illegal assets in a foreign soil which was a violation of laid down RBI guidelines in this regard.
The ED investigation report shows Modi "fraudulently sent certain emails on March 23, 2009 to various broadcasters and sponsors including MSM in which he had stated that BCCI was waiting for court verdict and hence barred from signing any new agreement till the court verdict was pronounced and that the verdict had now come out and BCCI was free to enter into any agreement for media rights.
"The email from Modi also states that the BCCI had just on March 23, 2009 signed a new agreement with WSG. The mail also stated that in essence WSG now owned global rights to IPL for the next 9 years and do not need to come back to BCCI for any further approvals. It was further stated that WSG was free to either sub-license or broadcast the same on any channel or channels globally or enter into a deal with any company or investor group globally to exploit the same on any channel."
The ED probe said the mail was "calculated" to create an impression that the media rights were assigned to WSGM and were authorised to deal with those rights in any manner.
"It has now transpired that there was no such agreement and in fact WSGM had no rights on March 25, 2009," it said.
The ED had alleged that Modi was "actively involved" in the negotiations of this deal and the facts of it were "known" to him as he was the IPL Chairman and Commissioner then.
"He (Modi) is a signatory in the agreements between BCCI-MSMS and BCCI-WSGI," it said in its order.
It further said the email sent by Modi "created an impression that by virtue of the purported agreement on March 23, 2009 the rights vested with WSG Mauritius.
In perspective it is apparent that WSG Mauritius was brought into play just to park the rights with them and the aforesaid email was calculated to press a panic button for forcing MSM to fork out a huge amount as consideration over and above the rights fee that was to be paid under the media rights agreement.
"Left with no option, MSM agreed to pay a consideration to acquire the rights which was secured by way of a legally enforceable agreement executed as 'The Deed for the Provision of Facilitation Services' on March 25, 2009 between WSGM and MSM.
"These events suggest that Modi may be a beneficiary of the amount of Rs 125 crore already paid by MSM to WSGM," the order said charging Modi for violating Section 3 (d) and 6 (3) of FEMA which deals with illegal creation or transfer of asset outside India in violation of existing laws.
The ED has slapped similar notices on Srinivasan, Manning and Raman as they, along with Modi, were "in-charge of and responsible to the BCCI for the conduct of its business pertaining to the said transaction."
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