MUMBAI: A special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court on Wednesday issued a non-bailable warrant against former Lalit Modi in a case of alleged money laundering registered against him, dealing a big setback to the former IPL chief who is at the centre of the ongoing political confrontation between the Modi government and its opponents, especially Congess.

The court order will be sent to the home ministry which will then contact its UK counterpart to arrest and bring him back to India in the case.

Calling it a fit case for issuance of warrant, special judge P R Bhavake said, “Though summons were sent and served on the agencies created by the accused for receiving the summons and other communication, he has not responded … warrant is to be issued against him.” Modi is currently based in London.

READ ALSO: ED issues summons to Lalit Modi in money laundering case, sets 3-week deadline

The Modi government which secured the non-bailable warrant against Lalit Modi is expected to act expeditiously because firm and swift action against the former cricket administrator will help it refute the perception that it protected him when he was facing serious charges. Implementation of warrant will also help it argue that Congress only went through the motion of taking action against Lalit Modi whereas in reality it did precious little in terms of concrete steps. “It is from now only that he is going to be treated as a fugitive and can defy the court order at the cost of the revocation of his passport,” said a senior government source.

Special counsel for the ED Hiten Venegaonkar told TOI that the order will now be sent to the home ministry, which in turn will communicate it to the home affairs department in the UK. “The UK authorities will direct the police to find Modi and bring him before the appropriate court there. Following this, Modi will be arrested and brought back to India. He will then be produced before the PMLA court.”

Venegaonkar added that the process was based on the convention treaty that exists between the two countries and a few others with respect to money laundering cases. If Modi chooses to remain a fugitive, a Red Corner Notice will be issued against him.

READ ALSO: Lalit Modi- Rahul Gandhi was ‘beneficiary of my hospitality during IPL’ On Tuesday, replying to the court’s query on how a warrant could be issued in the absence of a chargesheet, the ED’s advocate said PMLA cases follow a format that is different from regular criminal cases. The court asked the prosecution if it had the power to issue such a warrant pending probe. It further questioned why the agency had not arrested Modi yet. The ED’s lawyer said the case was in the pre-investigation case and it can seek the court’s assistance as and when required. The lawyer said the court had the jurisdiction to issue such a warrant.

ED had first issued summons to the controversial former cricket administrator through his India-based lawyer. However, his counsel returned the document to the agency, saying he was not authorized to receive it. Later, the officials e-mailed the summons to Modi who left India in 2010. The ED received no communication from Modi or his lawyer after the summons was issued.

BCCI had registered an FIR in Chennai in 2010 against Modi and others under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, while two years later ED filed a case under PMLA, in connection with a multi-crore rupees television rights deal of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
READ ALSO: Lalit Modi names two Indian cricketers who were bribed

The deal dates to 2008 when BCCI awarded the 10-year media rights for broadcasting IPL matches to World Sports Group (WSG) on payment of USD 918 million. The same year, WSG also entered into a deal with Multi Screen Media (MSM) to make Sony the official broadcaster of IPL matches. The contract was replaced a year later with a nine-year deal where MSM paid USD 1.63 billion.

ED stepped into this case in 2009 and began a probe under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) into allegations that a payment of Rs 425 crore was made as facilitation fees by MSM Singapore to WSG Mauritius in an alleged unauthorized manner.

By Anupama

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