A day after conducting a search operation at the Indian Premier League (IPL) headquarters in Mumbai, the income tax (I-T) department has decided to expand the net and bring all 10 IPL teams under its scanner.  The department will now examine who owns and funds all the teams. On Friday, a team of five I-T officials, including two deputy directors, visited the Punjab Cricket Association office in Mohali which houses the IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab. A similar exercise was undertaken at Rajasthan Royals office in Jaipur.

Officials also conducted searches at the office of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in Chandigarh.

During Thursday’s survey, the department had taken possession of bid documents and agreements signed between the IPL with Rendezvous Sports and the Sahara Group.

The Sahara Group had offered $370 million for the Pune franchise and Rendezvous Sports had offered $333.33 million for Kochi.

“Earlier, we did not bother much with these checks but after the [Kochi team] fracas we felt we need to find out the channels through which the money has come in,” said a senior I-T official. “We feel some verifications are required since many large corporates and promoters have stakes in these teams. What we don’t know is whether the teams are owned by the individuals or companies,’’ he said.

The department has already started investigating the ownership and fund resources of the Kochi team after the public spat between Lalit Modi, and Shashi Tharoor.

Prima facie investigations in the stake holding pattern of the Kochi team confirm Modi’s statement. I-T officials are also looking into the amount of tax deducted at source (TDS) paid by IPL franchises. If TDS is not paid in full, it amounts to tax evasion.

I-T officials who quizzed Modi described him as cooperative. He was asked questions on the bidding process, ownership of franchises, deal between BCCI and Global Cricket Ventures (reportedly owned by his stepson-in-law Gaurav Burman). He was also asked about the charges made against Tharoor.

Modi said on Friday that the taxmen went back satisfied. Asked if he was quizzed for 7-8 hours, Modi said the questioning actually went on for 15-20 minutes.

“They wanted papers relating to two teams. It took time to collect these from two to three different places,” he said. “When they asked me about other teams (eight franchises that were bid for three years ago), I told them that information is in public domain.’’

‘IPL a branding game’

The income tax investigation was launched in the light of the fact that the new IPL teams had been sold at exorbitant prices. The spat between Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor, too, was a factor, said a senior I-T official.

“We feel IPL has become a branding game. The higher the price at which teams are sold, the higher the value of existing teams,’’ said an I-T official.

“While we are not saying there is anything fishy, it [investing in IPL] gives stakeholders an opportunity to legalise unaccounted for money by investing little or nothing,” said the officer.

Mukesh Ambani-owned Mumbai Indians, Shah Rukh Khan-owned Kolkata Knight Riders and Shilpa Shetty-promoted Rajasthan Royals had reportedly shown losses last year. “We find it surprising that the valuations of some teams are rising even when they are making losses. In case of these three, we will find out how their value went up, when we start assessing their accounts this year,’’ the official said.

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September 2021