IPL chief to answer graft charges

NEW DELHI: Suspended Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi was due to respond on Monday (today) to corruption charges that have sparked a government investigation into the glitzy, money-spinning cricket tournament.

The sport''s national ruling body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), suspended Modi as head of the IPL pending its own probe into allegations of corruption, tax evasion and money-laundering.

He was also stood down as a BCCI vice-president and as chairman of the T20 Champions League, a separate club tournament organised jointly by India, Australia and South Africa.

Modi has run the IPL as a virtual one-man show since its inception three years ago, creating a heady and lucrative blend of star-studded Twenty20 cricket, big business and Bollywood glamour.

But Modi, a flamboyant and often divisive personality, has lost much of his support both within the BCCI, which owns the tournament, and the IPL''s governing council.

"I am going to reply personally because there is nothing to hide," Modi was reported as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency on Saturday. "I have not gone anywhere. I have only been suspended."

Asked if the IPL would be affected by his suspension, Modi said the league would weather the current storm.

"We have built a strong organisation," he said. "I don''t think the IPL will suffer. I think we have enough competent people to run the organisation. It''s a very strong brand."

Modi''s troubles began when he revealed the ownership details of a new franchise set to join the tournament in 2011.

He embarrassed a high-profile member of the government, junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor, by leaking on the Twitter micro-blogging site how Tharoor''s girlfriend had been given a free stake in the new team.

Under pressure from the opposition, which accused Tharoor of misusing his office to secure benefit for himself, the minister was forced to resign.

Modi faced another scandal last week when it emerged he tried to divide world cricket by proposing a parallel event in England.

The plan, revealed by England''s cricket chief Giles Clarke in an email to Indian officials, involved English county sides playing an IPL-style tournament.

Modi held a secret meeting with officials from three unnamed counties in New Delhi in March to discuss the proposal without the knowledge of the concerned boards, according to the email.