New Delhi: Lalit Modi, the tainted cricket magnate who lives in London, could be arrested soon to force him to face trial in India in a case of money-laundering. A court in Mumbai has today issued a non-bailable warrant for Mr Modi, who has asserted himself as a national controversy because of alleged close links to top leaders of the BJP.
Mr Modi, 49, was the flamboyant founder of the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), the domestic 20-20 cricket tournament that turned into a blockbuster hit. But in 2010, he left the country amid allegations of tax evasion, money-laundering and proxy ownership embedded in the IPL. He has since refused to return to India, alleging death threats from the underworld.
Mr Modi’s lawyers have said he can be available for legal proceedings on video conference, an offer accepted as fair by the Delhi High Court last year, which also reinstated his Indian passport after faulting the government for having revoked it.
But in recent weeks, the clamour to bring Mr Modi back to India to face investigation has shrilled, with the opposition Congress accusing the government of protecting a “fugitive”. That charge is facilitated by revelations that Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke to UK officials last year , resulting in Mr Modi getting urgent travel papers to accompany his wife to Portugal. Mr Modi himself disclosed that earlier, Chief Minister Vanduhara Raje had, in writing, backed his immigration appeal.
“We will now forward the court’s orders to the Home Ministry. They could forward it then to the Home Department in the UK or to the Interpol,” said a source in the Enforcement Directorate, which handles cases of money-laundering.
The agency says Mr Modi manipulated the process of assigning broadcast rights of the IPL in 2009, reportedly in exchange for a kickback of over 100 crores. Testimony against Mr Modi has been given by N Srinivasan, former head of the uber-powerful BCCI, which is the top cricket administrative body in the country.