In a world increasingly bereft of role models, it is heart-breaking to find one of our greatest sportspersons Mahendra Singh Dhoni being tarnished by the taint of financial scam. Best known as Captain Cool, both as a wicketkeeper behind the stumps and as an unparalleled finisher in front of it, Dhoni’s reputation is under a cloud now.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday deregistered the real estate Amrapali Group for defaulting on delivering homes to thousands of its clients and instructing the state-run NBCC to finish the promised flats in a time-bound manner. Amrapali, it is alleged, siphoned off money that it raised for building the homes from ordinary people like you and me. And where did the money go? Well, according to the court appointed auditors, a sizeable portion of it – around 43 crore rupees - went to two firms with links to our sports icon, Dhoni.
Part of Tuesday’s court order, the auditors’ report make for distressing reading. It says that promoters of Amrapali entered into “sham” agreements with Rhiti Sports Management Pvt Litd and Amrapali Mahi Developers Pvt Ltd. Fondly called Mahi by his legions of fawning fans, Dhoni has major stakes in Rhiti while his wife Sakshi is a director of Amrapali Mahi Developers Pvt Ltd. Incidentally, Dhoni was a brand ambassador of Amrapali till he withdrew in April 2016 under pressure from thousands of homebuyers left in the lurch by the group.
Though the final word has not been spoken yet on the case, the top court has listed 23 companies which were “created only to route the funds and transactions consisting of office boys, persons with no income and dummy companies in which family members and relatives were inducted as members only for few transactions…” Two of these include the firms linked to Dhoni and his wife. Already rich and famous, celebrities like Dhoni must ponder over why they have to be associated with dubious companies and products just for the purpose of making some more easy money.
And if Dhoni’s hitherto impeccable image has to suffer an irreparable dent after this, he would not be the first. Several celebrities too have displayed having feet of clay in the past with some of their calls and associationship being downright debatable, if not dubious.
Not too long ago a Bollywood celebrity was roasted for batting for a supposed health drink that had anything healthy in it. Several other celebrities are fighting the battle of their lives to extricate themselves from scams such as the Rose Valley and Sarada chit fund scandals of West Bengal. Being a celebrity in a country of more than 1.3 billion is not easy. But cementing one’s place as a role model is as difficult if not more as temptations lurk around every corner at that rarefied stratosphere.
As for Dhoni caught up in the Amrapali affair, it is too early to pass a judgement. For one, though his name has cropped up in the Supreme Court judgment no less than seven times in connection with Rhiti Sports, they mainly relate to contracts that aren’t properly executed. The top court hasn’t explicitly pronounced him guilty. Also, the master cricketer has his own litany of complaints against the realtor. Earlier this year, he had moved the Supreme Court to get 40 crore rupees that the company allegedly owed to him for using his services for branding and marketing purposes.
All this and more gives us hope that Dhoni, who weathered many a storm in the field, will survive this too. We cherish him as an icon and nobody in the right senses will want him to trip and fall.