In a new twist to the controversy over Kochi team, its owner Rendezvous Sports on Wednesday alleged that Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi had offered a US$ 50 million bribe to withdraw from the race, prompting him to threaten legal action.
"We were offered USD 50 million by Modi to withdraw from the Kochi team" Shailendra Gaikwad, CEO of the franchise, alleged within hours of Modi telling reporters that there was a question mark over the fate of the new team, secured by a bid of Rs 1533 crore last month.
Terming as "rubbish" the charges, Modi said: "Are they mad. Who will offer them what they say Rs 200 crore. I will take legal recourse."
Asked when he would initiate the legal action, he said "I am awaiting the clippings [in which Gaikwad had made allegation]. Once I have that, I will serve them legal notice... possibly tomorrow."
Hours after Modi told a press conference that there was a question mark over the owners of the Kochi franchise, Gaikwad hit back at the IPL commissioner saying that they are being deliberately made to go through a "tough time" because they refused the offer.
"We went through the process in the right manner and won the bid. But within 10 days of winning the bid, Modi offered us $50 million to give away the rights of the IPL franchise," Gaikwad said.
Gaikwad said that the franchise is being targeted because it outbid some big business houses whom Modi wanted to rope in for the subsequent editions of IPL.
"We are being put to an unnecessary process and the reasons are obvious. If we did not have all the papers in place how could we win the bid. It is unfair now to make us go through these problems," he said.
Modi, on the other hand, wondered as to "why I will offer them the money... the bid had gone for a good sum," and dared Gaikwad to prove the allegations.
"Today they are saying US $50 million. Tomorrow they may say some different figures," he said adding that every communication and conversations, including that of Tharoor wherein the Union Minister asked him not to identify the owners, was minuted in IPL.
Allegations from Rendezvous, which has given a 18 per cent share of its 25 per cent equity in Kochi Team to Sunanda Pushkar -- a friend of Tharoor, came within days of Modi divulging the names of stakeholders in Kochi Team, a tweet that led to a public spat between the Union Minister and IPL official.
Gaikwad said that all the details of the owners are provided in the bid document which would have, otherwise, been rejected.
"We have submitted all the details such as, PAN card, passport and other professional documents in the bid. Everything was attached as per the requirements. So how come suddenly there is a doubt about the owners," he asked.
Gaikwad suggested that the IPL commissioner may be putting obstacles on the Kochi franchise so that he could push some other team which he favoured.
He alleged that Modi had asked a lot of personal details during the meeting with owners in Bangalore.
"We were asked a lot of personal questions about some of our owners which we could not readily answer. He asked questions about when did you meet Sunanda (Pushkar) and other such irrelevant things.
"We said that whatever questions were unanswered we will mail all the details as soon as possible. We felt that most of the questions were planted. Before we could give all the answers he went on Twitter and said at the press conference that we did not have knowledge about all the owners," Gaikwad said.
Asked whether the Kochi franchise, which won the bid for a whopping Rs 1533 crore, is contemplating legal action against Modi for breaking the confidentiality terms, Gaikwad said, "we don't want to take legal recourse."
"We don't want to make this a legal issue. We are here for the passion of the game. We wanted to do something for cricket."
Earlier, Modi had said that he is in dark about the owners of Kochi franchise and would call a meeting of the IPL Governing Council after April 25 to discuss the issue.
"As regards all earlier eight franchisees we know who the owners are. They come, they attend conferences and meetings but as far as Kochi IPL is concerned we had a question mark," he said in Mumbai.