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Income Tax raid at IPL Office, Lalit Modi questioned

Mumbai/New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) The income tax department Thursday started a probe to ascertain the source of funds of various franchisees of the Indian Premier League (IPL), and also questioned IPL chief Lalit Modi late in the night, officials said.

Sleuths of the IT department were questioning Modi on the IPL funding. It was described as routine enquiry.

IT department officials visited the offices of IPL in Mumbai primarily to establish that the money involved in the cricketing extravaganza was "clean" with no loss to the exchequer.

The move comes a day after the department initiated a probe into the Kochi franchisee of IPL, embroiled in a major controversy over the ownership issue, to ascertain if its money had been channelled illegally from tax havens abroad.

"Our department officials indeed visited the Mumbai office of IPL for a routine inquiry. There was no raid as it is being made out to be," a top official of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) told IANS in the national capital.

As regards the Kochi franchisee, the probe was to ensure that the money involved was from clean sources.

"Our main concern is black money parked abroad. Just as we try to prevent black money going out our country, we also try to probe if such money is channelled back into the country illegally," said a senior official in the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI).

"At the end of the day, the exchequer should not suffer," said the official of the directorate, a wing under the finance ministry's department of revenue.

The franchise for the Kochi team, which will play from the fourth edition of the IPL Twenty-20 cricket extravaganza, was won in an auction last month by a firm called Rendezvous Sports for $333.33 million.

Along with Subroto Roy's Sahara Group, which bagged the franchise for the Pune team -- the second of the two new teams, the Kochi team is scheduled to join eight other teams from the next edition of the cricket tournament.

These are: Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Deccan Chargers, Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab.

The tax probe Wednesday followed a political row in recent days after allegations that Sunanda Pushkar, a shareholder in the Kochi IPL franchise and a friend of Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, received free equity in it.

IPL commissioner Lalit Modi maintained that there was a question mark over the ownership of the Kochi IPL franchise since the owners themselves did not know some of the people involved with it.

"With regards to the eight franchisees, we know about all the stakeholders. But there are still some doubts over the ownership of the Kochi franchise. Even the people who signed the tender documents don't know who they are," Modi said.

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