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Title:Snoop firm confirms it was hired by BCCI, heat on Srinivasan's camp

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MUMBAI: The Shashank Manohar-led Indian cricket board (BCCI) seems to be tightening the screws on administrators loyal to N Srinivasan, who was ousted from the board recently. Former BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel, a confidante of Srinivasan, was on Thursday morning summoned at an emergency meeting of the BCCI at its headquarters in Mumbai.

Patel and BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhary, who has continued in his position in the new set-up, were both asked to explain the payment of $900,000 (close to Rs 6 crore) made in 2013-2014, to UK-based security and investigations company, Page Protective Services (PPS).

Stuart Page, chairman of PPS, confirmed to TOI from London that his company was hired by BCCI. "Yes, we can confirm PPS was retained by BCCI but due to client confidentiality we cannot offer any further comment," Page said.

Sources said the company was paid to initiate a 24x7 real-time monitoring surveillance on certain 'important' individuals who were allegedly rivals of the Srini regime, a scandal which has now been labelled as 'Snoopgate'. The possible motive to put these individuals under surveillance has not been explained yet but it at a time when the Supreme Court-appointed Justice Mukul Mudgal committee was probing the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal. Manohar is said to be "meticulously investigating" unauthorized payoffs. It is reliably learnt that Patel, in his capacity as BCCI secretary then, had released the work order for payment and Chaudhary, as treasurer, released the payment on the basis of this order, but looking into FEMA requirements and other mandatory procedures.

Earlier this month, Manohar appointed Maharashtra Cricket Association president Ajay Shirke and BCCI vice-president from south zone Gokaraju Gangaraju as a two-member committee to look into the 'unaccounted' payments.

A source in the know told TOI, "As treasurer, Chaudhary's job was restricted to releasing the money once the work order was released. Beyond that, the treasurer has little control. The matter to be looked into is who gave Patel the go-ahead to release the work order?" Both Patel and Chaudhary remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts. Page Group, a 2009 JV between Page Protective Services Ltd and EMCIIS Ltd, is an international security company with over 20 years of collective experience of serving corporations, law firms, government entities and high net-worth individuals.

In the last one year, the only confirmation of such a surveillance being conducted by an investigation firm in UK had come to light in February when sacked Indian Premier League (IPL) commissioner Lalit Modi tweeted about an ongoing covert operation and said: "What I just learnt seems straight out of a spy movie thriller. Apparently someone authorised an agency in London... a 24-hour surveillance..."

Ironically, Modi's tweets came at a time when former Delhi high court judge Mukul Mudgal was in London for a lecture and Modi has been quoted as saying later that Mudgal had also come under realtime surveillance, adding that he himself was a 'secondary target'.

Between June 2013 and 2014, there had been immense pressure on Chennai-based N Srinivasan to quit as BCCI chief in the wake of the spot-fixing controversy. Under pressure to quit, Srinivasan had 'stepped aside' back then, making way for south zone confidante Shivlal Yadav to take temporary charge of the board.

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