The Lalit Modi case is all set to hit a dead end as the chances of his return to India get increasingly bleak, say officers connected with the case. Lalit Modi is wanted in several cases of financial irregularities during his tenure as chairman of the Indian Premier League. The “Modigate” controversy started a political slugfest earlier this year, when the opposition parties accused the BJP of shielding the ex-IPL boss and resulted in a washout of the Monsoon Session of Parliament. What has given rise to worries among investigators is the brazenness with which Lalit Modi, despite an Interpol notice against him, posted on Instagram his photograph with ex-Interpol chief Ronald Noble. In the photo they are seen attending a football match in Barcelona, Spain. In the post, Lalit Modi described Noble as his “brother”. Noble served as the head of Interpol from 2000 to 2014. In July 2015, a series of emails revealed Modi’s ties with Noble and his brother James. James and Modi had agreed to enter into a joint business venture relating to a property worth $365,000 in the United States.
“By the time the investigation gained speed, it was already too late. Lalit Modi had a blue-corner notice against him, but even then an ex-Interpol officer got his photo clicked with him. It should explain why the case has dragged on for years. There has been no official request for a red corner notice (RCN) against Lalit Modi yet,” said an Interpol officer in Delhi, requesting anonymity.
He further said that “Blue notices have been issued against him in the past. We want justice to be done if he is guilty. However, to be realistic, there are little to no chances of Lalit Modi being brought back to India. At least not in the near future,” he added.
Modi’s lawyer Mehmood Abdi had recently said: “It is a matter of political vendetta.” He had also said that Lalit Modi had been “hounded by the Congress ever since the Shashi Tharoor-Sunanda Pushkar controversy” came to light in 2010.
A BCCI inquiry had put a stop to Modi’s revelries in 2010. “In 2010, he (Modi) made a lot of enemies which included some of the senior cricket board (BCCI) members. The Kochi exposé backstabbed him; it contributed to his dramatic downfall,” said a source within the BCCI.
Sharad Pawar put him in charge of BCCI’s marketing affairs in 2005. Under him, the BCCI’s profit soared to over Rs 6,300 crore in 2006. Cut to 2008, Modi’s brainchild, the IPL, took the economics of cricket to a whole new level. IPL was a runaway success and became synonymous with Lalit Modi. The third edition of the IPL saw two new franchises make an entry — Subrata Roy’s Pune Warriors and Kochi Tuskers. At present, the IPL brand is worth more than $4 billion.
Hours after the franchise agreement had been signed, Modi took to social media revealing that among the shareholders, 4.75% of the sweat equity was owned by the now deceased Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Congress leader and then Union minister Shashi Tharoor. Tharoor was eventually forced to step down from his post as minister over allegations of holding a hidden stake in the team.
“It was LaMo’s vision. Look where Indian cricket stands now. He was the game changer. Unfortunately, the fairy tale was not to last for long. There are various stakeholders who may be pulling the strings in this investigation. You never know. But it is clear that he left a lasting impact on the game. IPL is one of the most loved tournaments in world cricket,” said a serving member of the IPL governing council adding that, “maybe Modi felt that he was being victimised. After all, he is not convicted yet and he isn’t hiding.”
BCCI’s inquiry report on the Kochi team charged him of rigging bids, arm-twisting and bringing disrepute to the board. In April 2010, during the course of the IPL, Modi was suspended. A suspension notice along with a 34-page letter that stated 22 charges were served to Modi.
THE FLIGHT TO FREEDOM
In March 2010, while Modi was in London, the Congress-led UPA government had revoked his passport. He had challenged the government’s decision in the Delhi High Court. BJP leader and current External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s daughter, Bansuri Swaraj, was one of the nine counsels who represented him in court.
In May 2014, the BJP came to power at the Centre and in August 2014, the high court restored Lalit Modi’s passport. It was said that the British Member of Parliament, Keith Vaz, had lobbied the UK immigration department on behalf of Lalit Modi in June 2015. Vaz had apparently mentioned an endorsement from Sushma Swaraj in his correspondence with immigration officers.
In 2008, Modi’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and was being treated in Portugal. Later in 2014, Sushma Swaraj clarified that she had requested the British authorities to go by the law of the land after which Modi was provided travel documents to Portugal so that he could tend to his ailing wife.