Playing Foul

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One of the worst kept secrets in India is that most sports management bodies are mini political theaters, and J&K is no exception. The state’s cricket association headed by the political heavyweight Dr Farooq Abdullah safely negotiated controversy after controversy until a multi-crore rupees scam hit the fan grabbing wide attention. Izhar Ali reports on the brazen culture of breeding corruption inside the JKCA.

Finally, the Jammu &Kashmir Cricket Association(JKCA)lodged a complaintwith the police against two of its senior officials- General Secretary Ehsan Mirza and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Saleem Khan, accused of swindlingmore than Rs 24 crore through multiple bank accounts. The scam story has been swinging between the newspaper headlines and the state legislative house. It is already a political story.

Ehsan, a prominent carpet dealer of Kashmir is also a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Wakf Board. He was among the 10 new members, including two sitting ministers, nominated as members of the Board by Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah in early 2009.His father, union minister for renewable energy and patron of his party National Conference (NC), Dr Farooq Abdullah is the lifetime president of JKCA.

Every year, Ehsan holds a cricket championship in Kashmir University in the memory of his grandfather Mirza Noor-ud-Din.This is the only tournament affiliated by JKCA and Board of Control for Cricket India (BCCI).Ehsan enjoys a good reputation among his business community but no one ever seemed to know of his secret dealings inside the JKCA financials.

He has apparently agreed to having swindled Rs 24 crore and also promised to pay it all back to the Association according to Aslam  Goni, the chairman of JKCA. But the political opponents of Abdullahs put the bungled amount at nearly Rs 50 crore.

Scion of the influential Goni family, Aslam is a top lawyer and a close aide  and political advisor of Dr Farooq who had appointed him as his government’s Advocate General. Aslam, not surprisingly gave a clean chit to Dr  Abdullah saying that the former doesn’t deal with the accounts of JKSA.

The  Kashmir Life investigation has found that apart from SOD-17 account in JKB’s Air Cargo branch, JKCA was operating many accounts since 2008 at the Khanyar branch of JKB to siphon off the funds received from the BCCI.

One such account 0101010100090606 in the name of JKCA was opened on June 21, 2008 at JKB’s Khanyar branch. Interestingly, Ehsan, one of the two accused in the multi-crore scam opened a personal account 0101010100090605 on the same day. After withdrawing money through self-drawn cheques  from the JKCA account ranging from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 2.5 crore, the account was closed down on May, 3, 2011. On the same day, another account 010101010091022 in the name of JKCA with a deposit of Rs 15,000 was opened in the same branch.

Besides, the JKCA was operating four loan accounts at the Khanyar branch. As per the records, bank loans of Rs 6 crore 27 lakh were obtained by the JKCA officials against the FDRs.

Interestingly, sources in the JKCA told this correspondent that Ehsan was misusing the ‘bogus’ account by issuing bearer cheques to the tune of Rs 1 crore to the people with whom he had business ties.These sources identified some of the dealers as Danish Carpets, and Rejab Sons.

Though DrAbdullah has washed off his hands from the multi-crore rupees scam, the recommendation letter issued by him to Ehsan has put him in the dock.

The letter dated March 10, 2012 from Branch Head, Khanyar Srinagar to chairman JKCA confirms this. “On the authority of a letter issued by honourable president Jammu Kashmir Cricket Association, the loan of Rs 1.90 Crore was raised against own deposits of the association on July 03-2008 and proceeds whereof were credited to current account no 90605 of Mr  Ehsan Mirza maintained with our business unit.”

On the recommendation ofDr Abdullah, the bank had sanctioned a loan of Rs 1.90 crore against two FDRs (1824619-1824620) of Rs 2.30 crore, and the loan amount was simultaneously credit into the personal account of Ehsan.

“I have not taken a penny in any form from JKCA. There is no question of any money being bungled. The tarnishing of my image is unfortunate,” said DrAbdullah.

He said a loan taken on fixed deposits of the sporting association was to repay the “interest free” loan Ehsan  had made to JKCA when the bank accounts of the Association were frozen by court.

However, the Kashmir Life investigation has found discrepancies in the audit reports of 2009-2010, and 2010-2011 as well.The audit reports, copies of which are with this newspaper, do not mentionany such loan had ever been advanced by Ehsan.

The audit report also claims that a whopping amount was spent on the conduct of tournaments during the turbulent years of 2009-2010, and 2010-2011, when Kashmir witnessed massive pro-freedom demonstrations and extended curfews. Srinagar was crippled for over three months in the two successive summer unrests that left hundreds of people, mainly youth dead.

In the financial year 2009-2010 the JKSA audit claims that the Association spent Rs2,11,83,833on various cricket tournaments at different levels. Similarly, in the 2010-2011 financial year, Rs 2,79,41,919  were spent on such tournaments. These tournaments ostensibly also included some for women.

The JKCA came into existence in 1957. It was an initiative taken by Kashmir Cricket Club that formed a sub-committee for the creation of the association.

After its creation in 1957, the JKCA received affiliation from Board of Control for Cricket In India (BCCI). Like other affiliated cricket associations, the JKCA received generous funding for promotion of the game. Besides regular subsidy, the JKCA received funds for upgradation and development of infrastructure.

The board has a general council and working committee. While working committee has 62 members from 31 affiliated units, the General Council consists of five members each from a unit that include the two working committee members. The elections for the post of the President, Chairmen, two Vice Chairmen, General Secretary, two Joint Secretaries and a Treasurer are held every year.

The JKCA has been in news consistently for various reasons. In the past, there have been serious allegations of nepotism, unfair selection, rigged elections, and internal bickering against the association.

In 2006, the association was gripped in a controversy over its working committee meeting in which the elections for various posts were held.A group of JKCA members had alleged the working meeting of the association held on June 23, 2006 was illegal and fraudulent.

However, paying no heed to the disgruntled members, the association passed a resolution (JKCA/2005-2006/Bank dated 25-06-206) empowering  Ehsan  to operate the association bank accounts.

Amid the raging controversy, the upset members knocked the door of the High Court and prayed that the working committee meeting and the decisions taken in it be set aside. In their writ petition, the applicants also prayed for the appointment of interim receiver to manage the affairs, activities and funds of the association till lawfully conducted elections of the actual existing members were held.

The applicants also prayed for restraining bank operations and funds by JKCA officials Aslamand SaleemKhan.

On January 24, 2012, a court  directed JKCA notto operate its Bank Accounts through self/bearer cheques till next date of hearing.

“Naming one or  two  officials in the embezzlement case is not fair. The collective responsibility lies on JKCA. The case needs to be probed transparently, and the people involved in the scam must be taken to task,” President, Kashmir Cricket Club, Moti Lal Nehru said.

Nearly a month after the controversy over the elections erupted, the JCKA was again in news. The fresh controversy raged after the then Chairman of JKCA, Mehboob Iqbal suspended the then General Secretary Saleem Khan and G M Ronga for their anti-association activities. However, the President of the association Dr Farooq Abdullah on September 29 quashed the suspension and termed it illegal and without authority.

Dr Abdullah had claimed that the JKCA Working Committee meet called and chaired by the Khan on July 18 in pursuance of his notice on July 6 has not been in accordance with rules of the state cricket body.

‘’Being the JKCA President, it is my prerogative to chair the JKCA meetings which are properly convened by the General Secretary as provided under rules. It has also come to my notice that some people who are not genuine members of the JKCA Working Committee for 2006-07 have been permitted by the Chairman to participate in the meeting held on July 18,’’ the circular issued Dr Abdullah read.

Two years later, the selection of players in the Ranji trophy brought JKCA again intocontroversy. The left out candidates alleging ‘’unfair’’ selection  dragged the association to the court. The court had restrained the association from announcing Ranji team amid the allegations.

“JKCA is more than just a sports body. The posts are created and filled on the basis of political affiliation and influence. The post of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) was also created to favor Saleem Khan, who is very close to the President,” sources in the JKCA told Kashmir Life. In September last year, sources said two bank accounts, including a wing account was closed down by Ehsan due to unknown reasons.The embezzled funds, they said were part of the subsidy package BCCI sends regularly to the association to promote sports activities in the state.

Meanwhile, the special investigation team probing the recent multi-crore scam carried out a series of raids at different places in Srinagar. The raided places included JKCA office at Sonwar, and the houses of the two accused situated at Nigeen and Chanapora.

About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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