Kolkata Soccer’s Poorer without Mallya
Mohun Bagan and East Bengal look for way ahead as cloud hangs over funding
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.