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Sachin pads up in cash case

Mumbai, April 3: For a man who makes his living hooking bouncers, this one is just another of those — only of a different kind.

Sachin Tendulkar today deposed against his former chartered accountant, Madhav Bhatkhande, who had filed a case in Bombay High Court claiming that the cricketer owed him Rs 16 lakh in consultancy fees.

The master blaster had filed a counter-complaint at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, accusing Bhatkhande of fleecing him. His elder brother Ajit, who appeared for him today, told the five-member disciplinary committee of the ICAI that Bhatkhande had duped the cricketer of Rs 26 lakh and that the case was one of professional misconduct.

Sachin later arrived at the ICAI office to substantiate the charges.

The matter goes back to 1996, when Bhatkhande — a chartered accountant with the firm MSB & Co, Sachin’s tax adviser since 1989 — took a loan of Rs 27 lakh from the cricketer. Bhatkhande, who did not return the money within two weeks as he had promised, had then handed a bill of Rs 42.5 lakh to Sachin for his firm’s services and said the loan amount could be deducted but the cricketer still owed him Rs 15.5 lakh.

The batsman, who felt Bhatkhande was out to cheat him, stopped payment and asked the firm to return the Rs 27 lakh instead. It was then that MSB & Co. filed a suit in Bombay High Court in 1999, prompting the counter-appeal.

The apex body of chartered accountants, which began hearing the case, said matters would be resolved only after the “sitting was through”.

Harish Jagtiani, Sachin’s lawyer, said Rs 42 lakh was not a big amount for the star, but “Sachin feels betrayed by Bhatkhande, whom he trusted for so long”.

“We have filed a case of professional misconduct against Bhatkhande’s firm. As far as we are concerned, everything is above board,” Jagtiani said.

Jagtiani said Bhatkhande had asked for the loan after Sachin signed a multi-crore-rupee deal with the late Mark Mascarenhas’s WorldTel, “but the loan was not repaid even though Bhatkhande had promised to do so after two weeks. When Sachin asked for the money back after about six months, Bhatkhande suddenly came up with a consultancy bill of Rs 42.5 lakh”.

Sachin, who had earlier paid Bhatkhande Rs 36,000 for a year’s services from MSB & Co., felt the firm was overcharging him and that he should not give in to their demands.

By 1997, relations between the firm and Sachin had soured so much that the cricketer thought it best to annul the contract.

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