Minister denies wrongdoing in IPL scandal

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The Independent Online

A government minister has denied wrongdoing in a brewing Indian Premier League cricket scandal.

Shashi Tharoor, the junior foreign minister, said in a statement in the Indian Parliament today that he had not benefited from his association with the winning bidders for a new club to be based in the southern city of Kochi in next year's edition of the lucrative Twenty20 IPL.

Tharoor has been accused of receiving a hidden stake in the team. Meanwhile, IPL chief Lalit Modi has been accused of trying to derail the Kochi group so another group of bidders can take its place.

"I have not benefited, and do not intend to benefit, in any way financial from my association with the team now or at a later stage," Tharoor said in his statement in parliament.

Kochi was one of two successful bidders to expand the immensely successful IPL to 10 city-based teams from next year. Kochi's franchise was the second highest among bid tenders invited by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which sanctions the IPL, last month.

Tharoor was dragged into a public spat when Modi revealed details of the Kochi franchise ownership via his Twitter account, saying a friend of Tharoor had been given equity without paying for it.

"The notion that somebody is some sort of 'proxy' for me is frankly insulting to me and to the professionalism and business ethics of the investors and their associates, particularly since I could not have any role in influencing the final outcome of a sealed bidding process," Tharoor said.

Modi said Friday that Tharoor had a hidden agenda of moving IPL's Kochi franchise to Abu Dhabi.

"Tharoor has a different agenda and it will be shut down, believe me," Times TV quoted Modi as saying.

"They are trying to put dispute into this. But we are here to stay. We have a robust league and we will continue doing a good job irrespective of hidden agenda."

In the background of the public debate, income tax officials on Thursday began probing the accounts of the BCCI and the IPL.

Four income tax investigators visited the cricket board and IPL offices at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium.

"It is only an inquiry, not a raid," said Modi, promising cooperation to the tax officials.

The Indian cricket board is the richest cricket organization in the world. It enjoys exemption from paying income tax, like other sports bodies in India. In recent years the tax department has sought to take away the exemption.