Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi is likely to appoint his trusted aide from Gujarat, GC Murmu, as the new chief of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) with a clear directive: bring back former Indian Premier League Commissioner (IPL) Lalit Modi to India.
Highly placed sources in the Government said that Murmu, who is expected to take over as the ED chief next week, will be asked to take all necessary steps for the extradition of London-based Lalit Modi. Murmu was both Principal Secretary to Modi and the Secretary of the Gujarat Home department from October 2004 till his boss shifted to Delhi as the PM.
Sources said that the need to expedite the pending cases against Lalit Modi was discussed at the highest level in the government after the Opposition directly accused Narendra Modi of shielding the “Chhota Modi (small Modi). In the ongoing Monsoon session of parliament, which has so far been washed out over the LalitGate scandal involving External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief minister Vasundhara Raje, Congress (Member of Parliament) MPs have often trooped into the well of both houses carrying placards: “Bada Modi meherban to Chhota Modi pehelwan.”
The Opposition members have not allowed parliament to transact any business during the last two weeks over their demand for the resignation of Swaraj and Raje for extending help to Lalit Modi at a time when he is facing several cases of economic offences in India.
Sources said that the Prime Minister is very upset over his name being dragged into a controversy involving a man who shares his surname.
On July 28, Murmu, a 1985-batch IAS officer, was made Additional Secretary in the Department of Expenditure by upgrading the post of Joint Secretary which he held for the last four months. Incidentally, only an additional secretary rank officer can be empaneled for the post of ED.
Despite so much noise over economic offences and black money, India does not have a full-time Enforcement Director for the last one year. Senior IAS officer Rajan S Katoch is handling the office of chief of the ED in an additional capacity since August 2014 after he was appointed Heavy Industries Secretary. Katoch has already been given two extensions of three months as the ED chief. His second extension ends this week.
Murmu will have his task cut out. For the first time since case of graft and money laundering were slapped against Lalit Modi seven years ago, the Enforcement Directorate on July 27 approached a Mumbai court dealing with offences under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), and sought issuance of a non-bailable warrant against the former IPL chief. The ED said that Lalit Modi must be forced to cooperate with the probe and answer questions related to an alleged kickback of nearly Rs. 125 crore he received in granting IPL broadcasting rights.
The ED prayed the court to issue the warrant after Lalit Modi failed to appear for questioning in response to a notice issued by the Directorate on July 3 to present himself before the authorities in two weeks times to answer questions in connection with a case lodged under the PMLA Act. The Court’s ruling is expected on August 3. If the Court granted the ED’s prayer, the Interpol will issue a Red Corner notice against Modi. The former cricket boss has refused to return to India citing the threat to his life from the underworld.
A day after the ED moved the court for the arrest warrant, Lalit Modi tweeted: ED are puppets… I am CONFIDENT that JUDICIARY will once again act with uttermost integrity & honesty.”
After that Lalit Modi has not tweeted a single word. Perhaps, he too has realized that the big Modi is going to make things difficult for him in the coming weeks and months.
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