Kolkata Soccer’s Poorer with­out Mallya

Mo­hun Bagan and East Ben­gal look for way ahead as cloud hangs over fund­ing

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Tas­mayee.La­haroy@ times­group.com

Kolkata: Vi­jay Mallya’s fi­nan­cial mess has cast a shadow over two iconic foot­ball clubs of Kolkata. Among the two, Mo­hun Bagan seems to be fac­ing more prob­lems than East Ben­gal.

The sto­ried ri­vals en­tered into mega fund­ing and spon­sor­ship deals with Mallya’s UB Group to­wards the end of the mil­len­nium. The ar­range­ments, with UB Group firms own­ing stakes in the clubs, worked mostly well. Then, Mallya’s woes came to the fore, with banks now chas­ing him for non-pay­ment of loans.

While con­cerns were raised over the fund­ing of UB Group’s sport­ing teams in the world of cricket and For­mula 1 rac­ing, the foot­ball clubs re­mained mostly out of the dis­cus­sions.

The two of­fi­cials were held guilty of pay­ing bribes to In­dian of­fi­cials for per­form­ing their duty — some­thing that they should have been do­ing any­way. This is a key change from the ear­lier ac­quit­tal from charges of pay­ing grease money to In­dian of­fi­cials for not per­form­ing their duty, or tweak­ing rules to favour the com­pany.

The two con­victed ex­ec­u­tives can file an ap­peal in the apex Ital­ian court — the Supreme Court of Cas­sa­tion.

The full text of the ap­peals court rul­ing hasn’t been re­leased. But judges have up­held the case of the pros­e­cu­tion that the two ex­ec­u­tives used mid­dle­man Guido Haschke — a Switzer­land-based con­sul­tant — to pay grease money. Prose­cu­tors have claimed that money was paid to close as­so­ci­ates of for­mer In­dian Air Force chief SP Tyagi, who is named as a prime ac­cused in the Ital­ian pros­e­cu­tion case. Ital­ian prose­cu­tors have also al­leged that another part of the bribe money was paid through UK-based con­sul­tant Chris­tian Michel to po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties in In­dia, and spec­u­lated that se­nior lead­ers of the then rul­ing party, Congress, were among the re­cip­i­ents.

Michel is cur­rently on the run, and there’s an In­ter­pol ‘red cor­ner’ no­tice against him fol­low­ing In­dia’s moves to ar­rest him in the case.

Fin­mec­ca­nica has al­ways de­nied any wrong­do­ing in the case and the two con­victed for­mer bosses have said they would ap­peal the court de­ci­sion shortly. Tyagi and his cousins have also de­nied re­ceiv­ing any pay­offs to fix the deal. Michel has said he was not in­volved in brib­ing In­dian of­fi­cials and claimed he is the vic­tim of a po­lit­i­cal ven­detta. ED has been pur­su­ing the case too, with Michel’s busi­ness deal­ings in In­dia be­ing probed. CBI is sep­a­rately prob­ing another case but it has not made much progress as au­thor­i­ties in Tu­nisia and Mau­ri­tius — where the al­leged bribe money was routed to — have not re­sponded to re­quests for in­for­ma­tion.

In 2013, the UPA gov­ern­ment can­celled the VVIP chop­per deal with Agus­taWest­land on grounds that the in­tegrity pact was vi­o­lated.


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