| Sachin has been ‘affected’ by the Ferrari controversy
Bangalore: Perhaps, it has lots to do with his pucca upbringing. Or, there could be an element of personal conviction as well. Whatever be it, Sachin Tendulkar hasn’t ever fallen out of line — even the Port Elizabeth incident was misconstrued. Yet, today, he is being bracketed with tax -evaders.
Sachin himself won’t talk about it but, as confidants point out, he has been affected by the Ferrari (Rs 1.13 crore customs duty exemption) controversy.
“He’s not at fault... Yet, his image continues to take a beating. Indeed, the longer this drags, the more unnecessary questions will be raised,” is how a Mumbai-based confidant put it, when contacted by The Telegraph on Thursday.
The matter is now in court, with the next hearing (in New Delhi) slated for September 23.
According to that confidant, Sachin verbally approached the powers-that-be and formally applied for a waiver only after being “advised” to do so. Apparently, no assurance was really handed out. A few weeks ago, though, the government reverted that, “in public interest,” an exemption would be granted.
The Ferrari — presented back in July, 2002 — landed only after the go-ahead.
“The issue isn’t about Sachin being wealthy enough to pay. What’s not being highlighted is that the powers-that-be bent no laws. The government has a discretionary allowance and has exercised that... Moreover, while Sachin didn’t win the Ferrari in a competition, it’s a gift for an on-field achievement — equalling Sir Don Bradman’s haul of 29 Test centuries. The presentation (from Fiat) had a purpose,” another Mumbai-based confidant maintained.
[While the maestro now has 31 centuries, his 29th was posted in Port-of-Spain during the 2001-2002 tour. That knock was worth 117.]
Sachin, it may be recalled, was gifted the Ferrari (by F-I ace Michael Schumacher) in a symbolic presentation during last year’s British GP at Silverstone. The function was organised by Fiat (which is handling Ferrari operations), for whom Sachin is a brand ambassador.
Significantly, Fiat has announced it will pick up the duty. Clearly, the auto giant hadn’t bargained for such a controversy and, conscious of the damage being caused, went public with its decision within 24 hours of the Delhi High Court stepping into the picture.
Actually, with everyone’s memory so short, nobody remembers that Sachin has been felicitated for being among the highest individual tax-payers in the country. Typically, he has never spoken about it.
“Look, if he was in the wrong, Sachin would have stood up and apologised...That’s the man he is... Sadly, he continues to be seen as a tax evader. That’s absurd...It’s another matter that the powers-that-be should offer a waiver to all sportsmen,” was the agitated comment of one of the confidants.
That’s a valid point. In any case, if the discretion-bit (in the relevant Customs law) is to be re-examined, why must it be done at Sachin’s expense' He should be left out of the debate.
Largely because the matter is in court, no teammate has jumped to Sachin’s defence. But, as somebody senior remarked the other evening, “everyone” is convinced that if Sachin doesn’t deserve an exemption, absolutely nobody does.
For now, at least this should give Sachin some comfort.