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April 29, 2000


The Rediff Interview/Arun Agarwal

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'It is apparent that Dalmiya's friend got a profit out of the deal'

Former Prasar Bharati financial adviser Arun Agarwal has threatened to file a counter suit against International Cricket Committee president Jagmohan Dalmiya if the latter sues him for exposing his alleged nexus with WorldTel chairman Mark Mascarenhas.

According to Agarwal, the nexus resulted in Doordarshan losing $4 million in the telecast of the 1999 cricket World Cup matches.

A couple of days ago, Agarwal had, at a press conference, revealed the contents of the report he had prepared during his one-month stint with Prasar Bharati as financial adviser.

Immediately, Dalmiya threatened to sue Prasar Bharati and Agarwal for defamation. The former has since disassociated itself from the comments made by the former official of their organisation and maintained that Agarwal made the comments in his individual capacity.

In an exclusive interview with Onkar Singh, Agarwal challenged the ICC bossman to go ahead with the defamation suit, claiming to have enough documents to defend himself and get to the core of the matter. Excerpts:

You held a press conference recently wherein you alleged that WorldTel chairman Mark Mascarenhas and ICC chairman Jagmohan Dalmiya joined hands to cheat Doordarshan to the tune of $4 million. Do you have any proof?

I did not use the words "to cheat Doordarshan". What I said was that Doordarshan had lost $4 million in a particular tournament, conducted in Bangladesh, whose rights were held by the ICC. The documents available with Doordarshan clearly show that the whole exercise was conducted in a manner that would result in the loss of $4 million to Doordarshan. Because of the nexus, while Doordarshan lost money, a private party -- that is WorldTel -- gained that money. It is widely known that the owner of WorldTel and Dalmiya are good friends. What is important is whether he [Dalmiya] played a major role in helping his friend.

It is apparent that Dalmiya's friend got a profit out of the deal, which is confirmed by the documents. Question is: did he facilitate the deal? That Doordarshan had bids worth $5-6 million and yet accepted a deal of $3 million from WorldTel clearly shows there was something wrong somewhere. What is more interesting is that the ICC facilitated a bank guarantee of 10 per cent on behalf of WorldTel. Doordarshan could have very easily prevented the deal.

Between February 18, 1998, and February 20, after a series of meetings, the decisions changed from time to time. A sports consortium is formed which enters into an agreement with WorldTel for the world telecast rights. Doordarshan is nowhere in the picture. Suddenly, on February 20, Doordarshan asked Stracon to procure the bank guarantee. In return, it would pledge international telecast rights. This clearly shows that there was some kind of understanding between the four parties, namely the ICC, WorldTel, Stracon and Doordarshan. You know that government agencies do not act so fast. It is more than a mere coincidence that they are all prepared to accept this kind of conditionalities.

How did you come into the picture?

The World Cup was going on and the then chief executive of Prasar Bharati had asked the ministry to give him a financial expert who could be on the board for a limited period. The ministry told him that there was no expert available with them and to hire someone on his own. He proposed my appointment to the board, and it was only after the approval of the board that I came into the picture.

It was during this one-month period that the files concerned came to me and I prepared a report which goes by the name of Sports Consortium Report for Prasar Bharati. The report also reveals how Doordarshan had not earned even a single paisa and, in fact, spent money from its own pocket by telecasting premier sports events like the World Cup soccer, Wimbledon and French Open. Because of my report Prasar Bharati was actually able to earn Rs 25 crore [Rs 250 million] from the World Cup 1999. Otherwise, they would have lost money on the telecast of this event as well. This was possible due to some litigation and some deals that Prasar Bharati entered into, but managed to get abrogated by the court proceedings.

Dalmiya has threatened to file a defamation suit against you...

Well, it is a free country. He can sue me and I can sue him. If he has a battery of lawyers, I too have friends in legal circles. What is regrettable is that when it came to match-fixing, he said let us have a probe. He tried to soft-pedal the matter till there was overwhelming opinion in favour of a CBI probe. He could have done the same in this case as well. All that I am asking is, make the accounts of the middleman -- in this case, the ICC -- public. What is wrong with making this demand? Let us see who is making money. Whether it is the parent organisation, or the broadcaster, or the middleman. He should have come clean because here we are not talking merely of conversations. Here the documents are on record. Things can be proved.

Did Prasar Bharati get legal opinion on it? And what was the recommendation?

Yes, the whole matter was sent to the government, who in turn gave it to the additional solicitor general for legal opinion. In his nine-page opinion, Kirit N Raval had said the entire conduct of the transaction in question needs to be seriously investigated, preferably by referring the matter to an impartial agency like the Central Vigilance Commission or the CBI.

Then why was the matter not sent to the CBI?

Only the administrator of Prasar Bharati, Rajeev Ratan Shah, can answer this question.

Shah has said that whatever statement you made was in your individual capacity and Prasar Bharati has nothing to do with it.

You would not expect him to do better. Of course I made that statement as an individual and I have the documents to prove that Doordarshan lost $4 million in a single deal. We should get to the core of the matter. If we find that middlemen made 80 per cent profit during the deals that were struck, it is cause for concern because in that event the game was used for some other purposes. I would be happy if the Doordarshan telecast deals are also included in the CBI probe that will now be carried out into the match-fixing case.


Mail Sports Editor